Mini-Mothra

Remember the 1961 movie, “Mothra”? One of the most popular figures in Japanese science fiction, she was a huge moth, mutated by radiation. Well, the 2011 tsunami that hit Japan has created mini-mothras in its aftermath: mutated butterflies (bit.ly/mutantbutter).

Two are pictured; one with folded wings, one with rumpled wings and one antenna, courtesy of Hiyama et al/Scientific Reports.

The mutations are caused by the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, which followed the earthquake/tidal wave. Since being exposed to radiation, the butterflies are showing abnormalities like antennae disfigurement, deformed legs and wings, dented eyes and changes in color and spot patterns. The closer butterflies were to high radiation levels, the more abnormalities were found.

“Insects have been considered to be highly resistant to radiation, but this butterfly was not,” Joji Otaki, of the University of the Ryukyus in Okinawa, Japan, who led the research, said.

The results of studying several generations of the affected butterflies caused a furor. “This study adds to the growing evidence,” Timothy Mousseau, a biology professor who studies radiation effects caused by Fukushima and Chernobyl, said, “that low-dose radiation can lead to significant increases in mutations and deformities in wild animal populations.” Scary! (Aug. 17, 2012)

Elleda Wilson is an editorial assistant for The Daily Astorian and author of the award-winning In One Ear community column. Contact her at 971-704-1718 or ewilson@dailyastorian.com.

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