Mutant frogs in Chernobyl, decades after the nuclear accident

Radiation in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone Caused Mutated Frogs. The green frogs died and the completely black ones survived.

In the 36 years since the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the tree frogs, typical of the place, have changed color. The Exclusion Zone changed them from an intense, bright green color to a completely dark hue.

It was one of the worst nuclear disasters in history.

The accident in northern Ukraine, then under Soviet rule, released huge amounts of cesium-137. It was the greatest ecological disaster in the history of mankind. Radioactive material has spread throughout most of Ukraine, and even into Norway and the UK. Nearly four decades later, its consequences continue to be uncovered.

Currently, the exclusion zone, which covers 2,600 square kilometers, has become a huge nature reserve that is home to many species. Scientists use this area to study how animals might adapt to these extremely high levels of radiation in their environment.

One of the recent discoveries is the remarkable transformation of local tree frogs, turning mostly from bright green to black.

frogs, Chernobyl, radiation, nuclear explosion, genetics, melanin

Mutant frogs in black color to survive

According to the researchers of the study published in the journal Scalable apps, darker frogs had a better chance of surviving when disaster struck in 1986, making them more numerous today.

Thus, in the evolutionary striving for survival, this dark coloration may not be exactly the result of genetic mutations caused by radiation contamination, but may be due to frogs that had darker skin coloration at the time of the accident, which are normally a minority within their populations, survive longer thanks to the protective effects of melanin.

More than ten generations of frogs have lived and died since the accident, suggesting that a very rapid process of natural selection could explain why the predominant frogs are now black (because radiation kills the bright green ones).

And what does the color black do to make them more durable?

The pigment that darkens animal skin, melanin, works to reduce cell damage caused by radiation. This means that people with darker skin will be less likely to suffer cell damage after exposure to radiation, for example.

Further proof of the recovery of ecosystems after catastrophes as grandiose as this one.

RReference: Ionizing radiation and melanism in Chernobyl tree frogs

Pablo Burraco, German OrizaolaFirst published: August 29, 2022 Scalable applications

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