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Fukushima butterflies show signs of mutation

Exposure to the radioactive material that leaked from the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant Fukushima caused mutations among butterflies in Japan.

Scientists have noticed increasing number of mutations of legs, antennaes and wings of a butterflys, which were collected after the accident in Fukushima in March 2011. They argue that the relationship between mutations and radioactive materials is proved with laboratory experiments.

Two months after the accident in the Fukushima team of Japanese researchers has collected 144 adult butterflies of the species Zizeeria maha, within ten locations in Japan, including the area of ​​Fukushima. At the time when the accident occurred, the butterflies were in the form of larvae. In comparison of mutations in the butterflies from other locations was found that in regions with high levels of radiation insects have much smaller wings and improperly developed eyes.

From left to right, dented eyes, deformed left eye, deformed right palpus, and deformed wing shape.

"It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation. In that sense, our results were unexpected," said lead researcher Joji Otaki from the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa. Professor Otaki and his associates continued to grow butterfly trapped in the laboratory which is 1750 kilometers away from Fukushima, where the radiation is almost not felt. They found that mutations in the next generation even stronger, as they become embedded in the genes of parents who used the contaminated feed.

Scientists have used this kind of butterflies as indicator of the environment, as previously known that these insects are very sensitive to changes in the nature.

"This study is important and overwhelming in its implications for both the human and biological communities living in Fukushima. These observations of mutations and morphological abnormalities can only be explained as having resulted from exposure to radioactive contaminants," explained University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau, who studies the impacts of radiation on animals and plants in Chernobyl and Fukushima, but was not involved in this research. 

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