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Fukushima’s Mutant Butterflies

A Japanese research team has found disturbing mutations in butterflies exposed to radiation after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant meltdown. Joji Otaki, associate professor at Ryukyu University in Okinawa, claimed that 12 percent of pale grass blue butterflies that were exposed to radiation had abnormally small wings and damaged eyes. Abnormalities were recorded in 52 percent of the 240 butterflies the same researchers collected in Fukushima in September last year, six months after the disaster.
Mutations were more prevalent in every subsequent generation of butterflies hatched (both onsite and off), rising to 34 percent in the third generation. This phenomenon suggests that the radiation has caused permanent and insidious damage to the genetic structure of the butterflies. “We have reached the firm conclusion that radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi plant damaged the genes of the butterflies,” Otaki said.
Teams of scientists and doctors in Japan have assured the population that they were safe from elevated incidences of cancer or leukaemia, diseases that are often associated with radiation exposure, on the grounds that the radiation levels from Fukushima were too low. It’s very difficult to accurately monitor the effects of radiation on a population as cancers can take decades to show up by which time the residents of a particular area are too dispersed to draw firm conclusions.
Radiation may also enter the food chain and it’s difficult to differentiate from diseases that result from internal ingestion or external exposure. For now, the people of Japan play a waiting game to see just how the Fukushima disaster will forever alter the fabric of all living things that have been exposed to the radiation.


Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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One thought on “Fukushima’s Mutant Butterflies

  1. Brandy Alexander

    Fear of radiation has bred all manor of science fiction and anime characters like Godzilla. Real mutal butterflies are far more scary!

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