Mutant Frogs Spotted Near Site Of Chernobyl Nuclear Meltdown – Possible Adaptive Response To Radiation

Ukrainian wildlife has been in the news before and during the current war. It has been a very mixed bag of good news and war related misery.

This photograph of a European green tree frog (Hyla arborea) yawning came from Roeselien Raimond Nature Photography.

Just before hostilities broke out it was reported that the area surrounding the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear meltdown was teeming with life. Wolves, in particular were becoming abundant as were prey animals and other species. At the time scientists were cautiously optimistic, glad that the species were rebounding, but worried about radiation effects.

Now, The Daily Mail is reporting the discovery of what they call “mutant” frogs in the area, European green tree frogs have been found that are black in color.

Newsweek says that the frogs are darkest near the “exclusion zone” nearest the explosion site. The speculation is that the darkening is caused by increased levels of melanin, which is known to protect against radiation and its effects. The study was published in the Journal Evolutionary Applications. EA. The journal is a peer-reviewed publication delving into the interface of biology, health, economics and use of biological resources.

Wolf Taken in a Trap (Loup pris au piège)
Wolf Taken in a Trap (Loup pris au piège) by Antoine-Louis Barye is licensed under CC-BY 3.0 European gray wlves, (canis lupus) were increaing in numbers before the Ukraine war. This wolf is suffering the fate of many throughout history – caught in a trap,

Newsweek quoted the paper saying skin color was

” …darker in localities closest to areas with high radiation levels at the time of the accident, whereas current radiation levels seemed not to influence skin coloration in Chernobyl tree frogs,”

The Chernobyl meltdown refers to an April 12, 1986 incident in which a reactor at the nuclear power plant melted down and exploded.

The number four reactor at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant melted down and exploded on 26 April 1986. According to Smithsonian a meltdown occurs when the cooling system in a power plant fails. It can lead to a “meltdown” of the uranium in the core and an explosion.

wrecked home furnitures interior
The Chernobyl metldown left behind photos reminiscent of World War Two destructionPhoto by Wendelin Jacober on

The Chernobyl explosion led to ionizing radiation being spread over much of the Ukraine. Such radiation can cause mutations. It can lead to deformities, cancers and death as well

The paper suggested that the tree frog mutations may not have been random. The frogs may be adapting to the presence of radiation by changing color.

“Dark coloration is known to protect against different sources of radiation by neutralizing free radicals and reducing DNA damage, and, particularly melanin pigmentation has been proposed as a buffering mechanism against ionizing radiation.” The paper said.

War-torn Ukraine has been in the news for other animal related issues. Conservationists have mounted an international effort to save wild and domestic animal rescues. Zoos, sanctuaries and veterinary clinics have been hard-hit by the war. It is still unreported what the impact of the war has been on the rebounding wild animal populations in the country,

Published by ursusrising

long time writer and editor living in Los Angeles

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