'Mutant butterflies' found near Fukushima

Posted by Mark Raby

The nuclear power plant disaster that occurred after Japan's extreme weather last year may have had an impact on the surrounding area.

For the most part, the Fukushima facility survived the devastating loss of power and infrastructure, and it avoided becoming another Chernobyl. But it is still described as being the worst nuclear plant failure since then, and at least one species of creatures has been affected.

Scientists report having found mutated butterflies near the power plant, which saw some of its security measures fail after the massive earthquake and tsunami there in March 2011.

Two months after the natural dsasters, researchers took a sample of more than 100 pale grass blue butterflies in the immediate vicinity of Fukushima.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, show that 12% of them ended up having some kind of mutation. When they mated, the offspring showed a mutation rate of 18%, and when one 'infected' butterfly was mated with a healthy one, that rate jumped to 34%.

"Our results are consistent with the previous field studies that showed that butterfly populations are highly sensitive to artificial radionuclide contamination in Chernobyl and Fukushima. Together, the present study indicates that the pale grass blue butterfly is probably one of the best indicator species for radionuclide contamination in Japan," researchers wrote in the report.

The fact that butterflies are making the biggest wave as a result of this disaster shows that it isn't an epic catastrophe, but you might want to avoid getting too close if you're ever in Japan.