Radioactive materials emitted during the Fukushima disaster caused physical mutations and genetic damage to butterfly populations living near the nuclear plant, a new study says. In a series of tests, Japanese scientists found that butterflies collected from the Fukushima area about two months after the 2011 accident were more likely to have leg, antennae, and wing shape mutations than those found elsewhere.
After breeding these butterflies in a laboratory, researchers found the next generation had numerous abnormalities not seen in the previous generation, including malformed antennae. And adult butterflies collected near Fukushima six months after the initial tests were more than twice as likely to have mutations than those found soon after the accident.
"It has been believed that insects are very resistant to radiation," said Joji Otaki, a scientist at the University of the Ryukyus, Okinawa, and lead author of the study, told BBC News. "In that sense, our results were unexpected."