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Mutant Butterflies Found at Fukushima

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Published on Aug 15, 2012

One legacy of the Fukushima nuclear disaster last year has already become apparent through a study of butterflies in Japan: Their rate of genetic mutations and deformities has increased with succeeding generations.

"Nature in the Fukushima area has been damaged," said Joji Otaki, a professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, who is the senior author of the new study.

The abnormalities, which the researchers traced to the radiation released from the nuclear power plant, include infertility,deformed wings, dented eyes, aberrant spot patterns, malformed antennas and legs, and the inability to fight their way out of their cocoons. The butterflies from the sites with the most radiation in the environment have the most physical abnormalities, the researchers found.

"Insects have been considered to be highly resistant to radiation, but this butterfly was not," said Otaki.

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