Butterfly larvae that ingest radioactive plant materials collected from the vicinity of the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant may be more prone to abnormalities and early death. The findings are published in Scientific Reports this week.
The accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant (NPP) in March 2011 led to the release of a large amount of radioactive materials into the environment. Previous research has indicated that exposure to such radioactive materials may have physiological and genetic effects on the Japanese pale grass blue butterfly (Zizeeria maha). Now Joji Otaki and colleagues examine how radiation from the contaminated region around Fukushima may contribute to lifetime ingestion of radionuclides by butterflies, and the potential biological consequences. The authors fed radioactive plant materials from locations around Fukushima to Japanese pale grass blue butterfly larvae from Okinawa - a Japanese prefecture about 1,000 miles south of Fukushima.
They show that consuming leaves that contain relatively small levels of artificial caesium released by the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP has measurable effects on the butterflies’ survival, growth and development. Further research is needed to explore the potential implications of these findings for other organisms.