Researchers from the University of Stirling have found that animals in lakes closest to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor have more genetic mutations than those in lakes further away, providing new insight into the effect of radiation on species wild.
DNA analysis of freshwater crustaceans, called Daphnia, revealed greater genetic diversity in lake populations that suffered the highest radiation dose rates after the 1986 accident. The radiation is the main cause of these genetic mutations, according to Dr. Stuart Auld, who led the research. .
Dr Auld, of the Faculty of Natural Sciences, Stirling, said: “Chernobyl is a natural experiment in evolution, as the rate of genetic mutation is higher and any evolutionary change is fueled by mutations.
“Normally you have to wait generations to see the effect of environment on mutations, and most mutant animals are quite damaged so don’t live long. By sequencing non-coding DNA – pieces of code genetics that don’t actually affect the form or function of the organism – we were able to find these mutations.
As part of her doctorate, Dr. Jessica Goodman collected the crustaceans using a kayak and a net from lakes located at different distances from Chernobyl. She took the samples back to Stirling’s lab, where Dr Auld’s team isolated and analyzed the DNA.
“Humans are much worse than radiation”
Dr Auld continued: “In a world affected by climate change, we really need to understand nuclear energy as an option, and its potential effects on natural populations.
“We know acute radiation exposure is terrible, but in fact, low levels are not nearly as bad as we think. And many animals around Chernobyl have actually done very well, because humans are gone – and it turns out we’re much worse than radiation.”
The article, “The contribution of radiation-induced genetic variation outweighs the effects of selection and drift in Chernobyl daphnid populations”, is published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology.
Bumblebees exposed to Chernobyl radiation levels consume more nectar
Jessica Goodman et al, Radiation-induced contribution of genetic variation outweighs the effects of selection and drift in Chernobyl daphnid populations, Journal of Evolutionary Biology (2022). DOI: 10.1111/jeb.13983
Provided by the University of Stirling
Quote: New information on the effects of Chernobyl radiation (2022, January 26) retrieved on January 26, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-01-insights-effects-chernobyl.html
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