Three years later and the world has slowly returned to normal after the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station disaster, but the frightening consequences just keep on going. Scientists have found that even today, butterfly larvae that feed on radiation-tainted leaves have lower survival rates and physical abnormalities as a result.

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Researchers examined the pale grass blue butterfly, which is common in Japan, studying the effects on the butterflies after they ate plants harvested near the plant just a few months after the disaster. When larvae fed on the contaminated leaves, they showed lower survival rates and more abnormalities like smaller wings. But the problem doesn’t stop there. In another experiment, researchers found that even plants with lower radiation concentrations were causing problems.

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Plants harvested 16 – 20 months after the disaster and from further away from the plant still seemed to harm butterflies when larvae eat the contaminated leaves. Additionally, when looking for the insects in the wild near the plant, researchers found fewer butterflies, which is consistent with a lower survival rate. Biologists believe that these findings are important because there have been almost no other studies on how radiation-tainted food impacts wildlife.


Lead image via Shutterstock, image via IAEA