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EMF Studies

01 December 2014

Biological Impacts of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident on the Pale Grass Blue Butterfly

Graphic on Japan's pale grass blue butterflies, showing
signs of genetic mutation after Fukushima nuclear accident,
according to researchers.  See phys.org article.
At the 29 November 2014 Scientific and Citizen Forum on the Genetic Effects of Ionizing Radiation, Chiyo Nohara, member of the team from the BCPH Unit of Molecular Physiology, University of the Ryukus in Okinawa, Japan, presented research on the biological impacts of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the pale grass blue butterfly, including effects from ingested radioactive materials. Below is her abstract for the Forum as well as abstracts from two published studies on the subject.

“The collapse of the Fuku Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant caused a massive release of radioactive materials to the environment. A prompt and reliable system for evaluating the biological impacts of this accident on animals has not been available. Here we show that the accident caused physiological and genetic damage to the pale grass blue Zizeeria maha, a common lycaenid butterfly in Japan. We collected the first voltine adults in the Fukushima area in May 2011, some of which showed relatively mild abnormalities. The F1 offspring from the first voltine females showed more severe abnormalities, which were inherited by the F2 generation. Adult butterflies collected in September 2011 showed more severe abnormalities than those collected in May. Similar abnormalities were experimentally reproduced in individuals from a non contaminated area by external and internal low dose exposures. We conclude that artificial radionuclides from the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant caused physiological and genetic damage to this species.” (See abstracts of presentations.)

Fukushima’s Biological Impacts: The Case of the Pale Grass Blue Butterfly
Journal of Heredity

Received September 25, 2013.
Revision received January 16, 2014.
Accepted February 2, 2014.

1. Wataru Taira,
2. Chiyo Nohara,
3. Atsuki Hiyama and
4. Joji M. Otaki
+Author Affiliations1. From the BCPH Unit of Molecular Physiology, Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan (Taira, Nohara, Hiyama, and Otaki).

1. Address correspondence to Joji M. Otaki at the address above, or e-mail: otaki@sci.u-ryukyu.ac.jp.


To evaluate the effects of the Fukushima nuclear accident on the surrounding area, we studied the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha, the most common butterfly in Japan. We here review our important findings and their implications. We found forewing size reduction, growth retardation, high mortality rates, and high abnormality rates in the field and reared samples. The abnormality rates observed in September 2011 were higher than those observed in May 2011 in almost all localities, implying transgenerational accumulation of genetic damage. Some of the abnormal traits in the F1 generation were inherited by the F2 generation. In a particular cross, the F2 abnormality rate scored 57%. The forewing size reduction and high mortality and abnormality rates were reproduced in external and internal exposure experiments conducted in our laboratory using Okinawa larvae. We observed the possible real-time evolution of radiation resistance in the Fukushima butterflies, which, in retrospect, indicates that field sampling attempts at the very early stages of such accidents are required to understand the ecodynamics of polluted regions. We propose, as the postulates of pollutant-induced biological impacts, that the collection of phenotypic data from the field and their relevant reproduction in the laboratory should be the basis of experimental design to demonstrate the biological effects of environmental pollutants and to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for these effects.

© The American Genetic Association 2014. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail: journals.permissions@oup.com


The biological impacts of ingested radioactive materials on the pale grass blue butterfly

Nature, Scientific Reports 4, Article number: 4946- doi:10.1038/srep04946

Received 17 January 2014
Accepted 22 April 2014
Published 15 May 2014

· Chiyo Nohara,
· Atsuki Hiyama,
· Wataru Taira,
· Akira Tanahara
· & Joji M. Otaki

· Affiliations
· Contributions
· Corresponding author

A massive amount of radioactive materials has been released into the environment by the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, but its biological impacts have rarely been examined. Here, we have quantitatively evaluated the relationship between the dose of ingested radioactive cesium and mortality and abnormality rates using the pale grass blue butterfly, Zizeeria maha. When larvae from Okinawa, which is likely the least polluted locality in Japan, were fed leaves collected from polluted localities, mortality and abnormality rates increased sharply at low doses in response to the ingested cesium dose. This dose-response relationship was best fitted by power function models, which indicated that the half lethal and abnormal doses were 1.9 and 0.76 Bq per larva, corresponding to 54,000 and 22,000 Bq per kilogram body weight, respectively. Both the retention of radioactive cesium in a pupa relative to the ingested dose throughout the larval stage and the accumulation of radioactive cesium in a pupa relative to the activity concentration in a diet were highest at the lowest level of cesium ingested. We conclude that the risk of ingesting a polluted diet is realistic, at least for this butterfly, and likely for certain other organisms living in the polluted area.


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