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Unnatural Selection

Twenty-eight years ago, long before most Explainers were born, a nuclear reactor exploded at the Chernobyl Power Plant in Ukraine.  After the incident, the surrounding areas were deemed uninhabitable because of the levels of radioactivity, or so we thought.

Ten days there, adds up to the same amount of radiation that an average United States resident would be exposed to in an entire year.  You can see why repopulating the area might be a bad idea, but that doesn’t stop people like Timothy Mousseau from going back year after year.  He doesn’t have a death wish, he’s just studying biology.

How you ask?  It just so happens to be a great place to study the long-term effects of radiation on organisms.  Surprisingly, there are abundant populations of animals that have found a wildlife safe haven, free of human interference, until Timothy Mousseau comes to check in on them.  Dr. Mousseau says “This level of chronic exposure is above what most species will tolerate without showing some signs…[it makes the] perfect laboratory setting.”

Because of the exposure, he expects to see tumors, cataracts, deformed bird beaks, distorted spider webs and lots of other genetic mutations.  The most unfortunate sign of radiation exposure is a shortened life span.  On the other hand, some species have adapted, like birds that are producing higher levels of antioxidants to protect themselves from the radioactivity.  Despite those events, and the “unnatural selection” life is still finding a way to survive near Chernobyl.

Source: New York Times

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