It’s been well over a year since a massive earthquake and tsunami devastated the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. During early stages of the fallout, Japanese officials insisted that radioactive contamination did not pose a serious danger to humans or the environment, but in the months that followed, evidence has suggested otherwise. A study published recently in the journal Nature provides evidence that the collapse of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant released a huge amount of radioactive materials into the environment. According to the research, this contamination is already causing physiological and genetic damage to a species of butterfly that used to be common in the region.

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Unfortunately, it’s still too early to evaluate the full biological impact of the Fukushima nuclear fallout on all animal species in the region. But if what’s happening to the the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha (a common lycaenid butterfly in Japan) is any indication, it’s severe and scary.

According to the study, some of the butterflies had abnormalities in their legs, antennae, and abdomens, and dents in their eyes.  Researchers also found that some affected butterflies had broken or wrinkled wings, changes in wing size, color pattern changes, and spots disappearing or increasing on the butterflies.

“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,” the study said. “Together, the present study indicates that the pale grass blue butterfly is probably one of the best indicator species for radionuclide contamination in Japan.”

+ Nature

Via CNN News