Radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster has caused “severe abnormalities” in butterflies which lived in the surrounding environment.
According to research published in the journal Scientific Reports, the accident caused “physiological and genetic damage” to the pale grass blue butterfly, the Zizeeria maha, a common type of butterfly in Japan.
As a result of a 9.0 magnitude earthquake in April 2011 and the subsequent tsunami, the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant went into meltdown, causing a massive release of radioactive materials.
Researchers found “more severe abnormalities” in adult butterflies collected in September 2011 than compared to those collected in May.
These included “wing aberrations, including broken or wrinkled wings”, colour pattern changes and changes to spots on the wings.
The scientists, led by Atsuki Hiyama and Chiyo Nohara, fear butterflies could be inheriting the “adverse effects” of exposure to radiation. However they say examples of genetic mutations in past research have been “scarce”.
In the report, called “The biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly”, researchers also bemoan that “a prompt and reliable system for evaluating the biological impacts of this accident on animals has not been available”.
They suggest a “lack of information raises serious concerns about biological influences on living organisms that could ultimately produce long-term destruction of ecosystems and cause chronic diseases.”