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Japan Earth Science

"Severe Abnormalities" Found In Fukushima Butterflies 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the birth-of-mothra dept.
Dupple writes "The collapse of the Fukushima 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. This study suggests 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."
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"Severe Abnormalities" Found In Fukushima Butterflies

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  • by yagu (721525) * <[moc.liamg] [ta] [ugayay]> on Monday August 13, 2012 @12:37PM (#40975215) Journal
    How does this affect the butterfly effect? This could be chaos!
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @01:08PM (#40975667)

      Not funny. The full extent of the damage can be seen in these photos here. [wordpress.com]

      Every time something nuclear comes up, someone has to come along and undermine it with these petty jokes.

      • by jellomizer (103300) on Monday August 13, 2012 @02:45PM (#40976757)

        Because every time something nuclear comes up, there is a slew of OH MY GOD NUCLEAR BAD!!! people. Who is not willing to compare its safety record, with fossil fuels (It best alternative).

        I am not touting the Nuclear Energy is Clean, Safe, too Cheap to meter. However right now the effects of Fossil fuels is worse then the effect of nuclear energy.

        We should expand our Nuclear Energy usage. At the same time we need a strong set of regulations involved and enforced to make sure Nuclear Energy stays safe. Using any mistake that goes on as a lesson learn to make it safer.

        • by osu-neko (2604)

          I am not touting the Nuclear Energy is Clean, Safe, too Cheap to meter. However right now the effects of Fossil fuels is worse then the effect of nuclear energy.

          We should expand our Nuclear Energy usage.

          If it's true that fossil fuels and nuclear energy are the two and only two alternatives available, then your second statement logically follows from the first. If there are any other forms of energy, your second statement simply does not follow.

          • Re:butterfly effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Creepy (93888) on Monday August 13, 2012 @04:37PM (#40977853) Journal

            ok, I'll bite. The fact is, there is no "clean" energy that can be built anywhere, and many have major flaws.
            Wind Turbines supposedly kill eagles and often requires long transmission lines that make them inefficient in the best of cases. Not viable everywhere.
            Solar is inefficient both in land and energy generated and also generally requires long transmission lines. Energy output varies by season in many areas.
            Hydroelectric Dams have a horrible safety record, especially during construction, mess up the earth's spin, and can affect wildlife that depend on rivers. Some of the better power generating models (ie pumped storage) depend on high elevation drops and some other power source (like Coal) to pump
            Tidal (wave) energy - many of the same construction dangers as Hydroelectric, only works for coastal cities
            Peat (mostly in Russia) - large CO2 producer, kills fish with runoff
            Biofuel - corn absolutely rapes soil nutrients, and other sources aren't much better. Most sources are subsidized because they aren't economical
            Geothermal - great if you live near steaming hot springs and are basically sitting on an inactive volcano, not so great if you aren't

            did I miss anything?

            There's nothing inherently wrong with nuclear fission, Fukishima was just using a dangerous reactor design without the failsafes built into later designs. I personally feel LWRs are dumb to build on an earthquake and tsunami prone island, but passively safe designs like the MSRE were never developed and only are being looked into again now by companies like FLiBe energy [flibe-energy.com]. This technology was successfully developed in the 1960s and then subsequently abandoned, and the official reason was to avoid fragmenting the industry (but we damn well know it was all about the money - the nuclear lobby existed to protect LWR patents and these were threatened by any other nuclear power technology).

            Fusion will require a very expensive containment vessel, and it will be a long time before it becomes efficient in any way (when and if they manage to get more energy out than they put in).

            • Re:butterfly effect? (Score:5, Informative)

              by Kidbro (80868) on Monday August 13, 2012 @05:36PM (#40978467)

              The fact is, there is no "clean" energy that can be built anywhere.

              did I miss anything?

              Yes. Nobody has said that there's a one size fits all clean energy source, so pretending one required and start attacking that false hypothesis is nothing but a straw man technique.
              By your reasoning, the entire world is dead of starvation, as there's pretty much no source of food that can be grown everywhere. Different solutions for different locations.

              For the record, I'm relatively pro nuclear power - but you're still arguing against a straw man.

            • by tragedy (27079)

              Pretty much all power generation, including nuclear and coal, requires long transmission lines. The only sources that don't are local ones, such as right in homes or right down the street. That pretty much means solar (could also be wind or gas/diesel generators, or hydro with people lucky enough to have their own river, but not very likely). So, the long transmission line argument is pretty much bunk since you don't present any alternative that doesn't need them.

              Wind Turbines supposedly kill eagles and often requires long transmission lines that make them inefficient in the best of cases. Not viable everywhere.

              All tall structures kill birds. I don't thin

              • by geekoid (135745)

                except every type of field grown biofuels competes with food. We are already seeing price hits, and it's hardly used.
                Unless you are growing bio fuels from tiny animals in places where we can't grow food, then bio fuels should end.

                "Seems like good places to grow crops that aren't intended for human consumption. "
                it's not nearly enough to offset cost impact to food.
                "on't require long transmission lines"

                WTF is every ones hang up with transmission lines? There a lot more efficient the the tankers/ trunks you

                • by tragedy (27079)

                  except every type of field grown biofuels competes with food. We are already seeing price hits, and it's hardly used.
                  Unless you are growing bio fuels from tiny animals in places where we can't grow food, then bio fuels should end.

                  As I pointed out, there are some quite massive areas of otherwise arable land that are contaminated and aren't fit for growing food for human consumption. There are also alternatives like harvesting algae from the sea, etc. Biofuels done poorly (such as corn ethanol) are a problem, but that doesn't magically mean that biofuels can't work. I also just can't accept any financial market-based arguments since those markets are all pretty much entirely based on perception rather than reality. As for "tiny animal

            • Re:butterfly effect? (Score:4, Interesting)

              by symbolset (646467) * on Monday August 13, 2012 @11:14PM (#40981029) Journal

              Geothermal - great if you live near steaming hot springs and are basically sitting on an inactive volcano, not so great if you aren't

              This is not true in general and not in Japan specifically because the entire region is geothermally active. New enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) can extract electrical energy from temperature deltas far lower than traditional dry steam plants. They don't even have to be on land: offshore subsea geothermal plants would work quite well especially with a cool flow of ocean water to supply the cold side of the delta. There is very little of the US [nrel.gov] that could not generate power [energy.gov] with EGS. Google mapped them for us. [google.org] Quote: "Potential for the continental U.S. exceeds 2,980,295 megawatts using Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS) and other advanced geothermal technologies such as Low Temperature Hydrothermal. " This is 3/4ths of domestic consumption in 2011. We don't even have to look for them - typically EGS thermal sources are found incidental to other mineral exploration, and ignored even though most of the work is already done at that point.

              Since these resources are completely safe, nontoxic, natural, carbon-free electrical energy resources that cost even less than nuclear energy [wikipedia.org] it would be irresponsible to engage in any increase in risk or carbon generation whatsoever before all of these resources were fully exploited.

              As both baseload power and on-demand power EGS also offers the potential to mitigate the variability of other clean resources in a way that even nuclear can't. The persistent thermal resource in a given area is limited, but over a long time base so on surges in need can over-extract thermal energy for many years before diminishing returns diminish the resource locally for a while. This makes them the perfect complement to PV solar and others.

              There are other things we could do to improve the situation without the toxins of carbon or the risk of nuclear, like encouraging shallow geothermal heatpumps for home heating and cooling, and extracting electricity from the thermal deltas of manufacturing, but EGS is a really big bucket to serve our energy needs in a realistic way and your dismissal of it in this way is offensive so now I'm going to reciprocate.

              One chief objection to nuclear is that we have many hundred reactors worldwide of the Fukushima disaster designs. And every one has 40 years worth of spent fuel stored in an elevated pool [wikipedia.org] on top of the building that could be destroyed in some way - many times the design load of fission byproducts for these pools now, and dozens of times the fuel in the reactor vessel. After cooling for a time this fuel is supposed to be moved to safer dry cask storage. But casks cost money and the operators are skinflints and it's cheaper to have the pools recertified for more and more spent fuel packed tighter and tighter and not ever move any to the casks. But density is the bugaboo of nuclear fission: the tighter you pack these rods the more they encourage each other to fission. So now our national production capacity for these casks is 3% of the need, and one brick of C4 on the bottom of one of these pools could lead to a meltdown outside of the containment leading to a vast wasteland of hundreds of square miles of American Exclusion Zone [wikipedia.org] that can't be occupied for 100 years - among other things - for each of these reactors. Certainly there is evidence that this occurred at Fukushima to some degree. On that very day the dumb bastards trusted to operate our nuclear plants should have been cutting P.O.s for casks - and that

            • by Genda (560240)

              You can't simply go around making blanket statements (well you can, but people will slap you statements down so hard, they'll leave impressions in the asphalt), especially when you quote information that is either grossly dated, fundamentally meaningless or simply lacks vision, and an understanding of what a diverse energy system can, indeed must look like.

              Our nation runs on a grid. There are long distance lines everywhere. This already exists, and therefore does not preclude the existence of large green en

            • did I miss anything?

              Yes the fact that many of the same problems exist with coal, eg....
              To get the 'advertised' output of 6 coal plants requires you build 7 to cater for maintenance.
              To efficiently meet peek load, hydro dams and gas turbines must be available.
              To efficiently fuel the plant it must be built on or very near a coal mine and use long transmission lines.

              These are large engineering projects we are talking about, you don't get the efficiency of scale you get with a one shoe fits all solution like changing over

            • by AmiMoJo (196126)

              Your ignorance on a topic you seem to think you have fully explored is incredible.

              Wind Turbines supposedly kill eagles and often requires long transmission lines that make them inefficient in the best of cases. Not viable everywhere.

              The bird kill thing is a myth, and long distance transmission lines are a solved problem.

              Solar is inefficient both in land and energy generated and also generally requires long transmission lines. Energy output varies by season in many areas.

              Solar thermal collectors are highly efficient and also help the grid by offering massive amounts of energy storage capacity. They don't take up that much space, and besides which a lack of space is not the problem in many places. Energy output varies but that isn't a problem is you just build enough of them.

              Hydroelectric Dams have a horrible safety record, especially during construction

              No, dams have a horrible safety

            • by geekoid (135745)

              DO you know the power loss in modern line? inefficient isn't a word I would use.. but then I actually know the numbers.
              "Solar is inefficient both in land and energy generated and also generally requires long transmission lines."
              again with that word. I don't think it means what you think it means.
              Solar is two technologies(many more if you are padatic.)
              Panels and Industrial thermal. IN many areas, panels need to become part of every house built. It wojudl feed all the nergy, but it will offset energy use cons

        • by symbolset (646467) *
          Start moving significant quantities of spent fuel to dry cask storage. Then ask again. This should be no problem at all.
        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          False dichotomy. If it were a simply choice between nuclear and "fossil" you might have a point, but there are different types of fossil fuel and other non-fossil sources to consider. Also when looking at the potential risks you have to consider where we are now, not where we were in the past or where other less developed nations are.

          Don't oversimplify the debate.

      • by geekoid (135745)

        And you add nothing and do so anonymously.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Hardness (990225)
      A mutated butterfly in Japan flutters it's wings, and it creates a three-eyed tornado in Kansas... So yes, chaos. Lots of chaos.
      • Global warming!

        • Actually to get a Giant butterfly we will need far more Oxygen in our atmosphere for one to survive.

          • by Genda (560240)

            No, the butterfly would only needs to evolve lungs, because spiracle are a very inefficient means to move oxygen. Of course even lungs set an upper limit to the size of a butterfly... figure to get really big, it would have to migrate to the ocean. A butterfly whale... now that would be a site-seeing tour!!!

    • by camperslo (704715)

      How does this affect the butterfly effect?

      Putting the polonium in pollinate. Ask Arafat.

    • Re:OH SHIT! (Score:5, Informative)

      by MyLongNickName (822545) on Monday August 13, 2012 @12:46PM (#40975361) Journal

      I came here to post the same thing and provide a link for the younger Slashdotters

      http://dreager1.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/mothrabattleforear1622.jpg [wordpress.com]

    • by dkleinsc (563838)

      Don't worry, Godzilla [wikipedia.org] will take care of Mothra, and everything will be fine (unless you live in Tokyo).

      • by WAG24601G (719991)
        You say that now, but you'll be glad Mothra's around when King Ghidorah arives.
      • by tnk1 (899206)

        OH NO! Tokyo!

      • There should be a movie about people living in poverty and bankrupt governments and coprorations due to the massive capital damage movie heroes occur on cities every year.

        DC, LA, and NYC will probably need to be rebuilt every 6 months.

        I mean 9/11 was considered a major tragedy, the people who caused the damage are considered as some of our most evil people living in the world. But a couple of movie comic book hero's cause wide mass destruction and we parade them as heroes!!!

        • Have you seen "Hancock"? It's not too far from what you describe.

      • by camperslo (704715)

        In a strange twist, radiation from cold-war era atomic testing in the South Pacific about half a century ago is responsible for those Japanese monster movies. They were inspired by fishermen returning home with severe radiation sickness, following exposure during a test.

        So it isn't just the current butterflies resulting from release of radiation. The movie monster characters did too.

        • Or perhaps Japanese radioactive monster movies are an expression of the impact to their cultural psyche from being bombed with two atomic weapons? Something powerful, atomic, indiscriminate and terrifying? Daigo FukuryÅ Maru certainly contributed, but I think the fear of the nuclear monster was already entrenched by then.
          • by geekoid (135745)

            perhaps? no, definitely. Watch the original Godzilla. I recommend the Japanese version, not the western version where the edited in the reporter.
            There is a scene that just rips me apart every time.

            The edited American version stars Raymond Burr, and is titled " Godzilla, King of the Monsters!." Sadly, it treats American views like they are complete idiots. Typical studio exec. thinking.

    • by mark_reh (2015546)

      Damn! Where are the Peanuts when you need them?

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Mosura ya Mosura!
      Dongan kasakuyan indoo muu

  • Dumbasses (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @12:57PM (#40975517)

    This is forever. It's genetically inherited and it can NEVER be cured. There is no way to know how bad the effects will be (i.e. disease, immunity response, deformities, life span, etc) in the offspring for all generations. And all you can do is make jokes and actually excuse it!! Wow... Is something wrong with your brainwashed, apathetic, sorry excuse for minds? They used to say the same things about cigarettes except this can never be quit, and it effects all these victims' children and their children and on and on... Ya, it's real fucking funny. It's people like you that make this world shit.

    • by JSBiff (87824)

      We do not know that this is forever. Natural Selection pressures which lead to the development of larger forewings my over the next few decades lead the butterflies right back to the larger wingspans. Or not.

      That's evolution. There is no *should* - there is only what is; and what is, is constantly changing. Bigger wings, smaller wings, it's all the same to me, until you can show me species *dieing out*, or having abnormally high rates of birth defects (and smaller wings are NOT a birth defect if they otherw

    • This is forever. It's genetically inherited and it can NEVER be cured. There is no way to know how bad the effects will be (i.e. disease, immunity response, deformities, life span, etc) in the offspring for all generations. And all you can do is make jokes and actually excuse it!! Wow... Is something wrong with your brainwashed, apathetic, sorry excuse for minds? They used to say the same things about cigarettes except this can never be quit, and it effects all these victims' children and their children and on and on... Ya, it's real fucking funny. It's people like you that make this world shit.

      How is this more permanent than taking a piss in the ocean?

      Where do you get your notion of genetic permanence from anyway, how do you think those butterflies got whatever traits they have now?

    • "This is forever. It's genetically inherited and it can NEVER be cured. There is no way to know how bad the effects will be (i.e. disease, immunity response, deformities, life span, etc) in the offspring for all generations."

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eScDfYzMEEw [youtube.com]

    • Listen, buddy. It is never going to be cured. It's bad. There's not a fucking thing we can do about it. So we may as well get a laugh out of it. Unless you have a magical solution that for some reason doesn't work in the presence of humor, howsabout you take the stick out of your ass, grab a beer, and relax a little? All your fuming isn't improving the situation either.

      Also, some of the other comments make me think you don't know what you're talking about.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday August 13, 2012 @01:00PM (#40975561)

    I love science. But this is barely news. These creatures eat the sweet surface juices and pollen, and develop at a rate so fantastic it make them a source of childhood wonder. Of course they'll be the first to be affected. A reduced fore-wing size will not unravel the entire food chain, and very importantly: evolution will push back. This species has an enormous population that is unaffected by radiation. If the small wings are an advantage going forward: great. If not, their neighbors will out compete them, and the mutants will die out.

    Wake me when they have a stable population of 6 legged dogs.

    • by MobyDisk (75490) on Monday August 13, 2012 @01:20PM (#40975803) Homepage

      I find it newsworthy. And interesting.

      These creatures eat the sweet surface juices and pollen, and develop at a rate so fantastic it make them a source of childhood wonder.

      That is a good lay explanation of why this is not scientifically unexpected. But that doesn't mean it is unimportant. Most news articles have been focused on the direct human impact of the Fukushima disaster. But it is important for people to understand that even if the environmental impact is not significant to large long-lived mammals, it is significant to smaller beings. Ultimately, we depend on their survival, albeit indirectly.

      Either way, this is valuable research. It is a good baseline to compare to in years to come.

      • by khallow (566160)

        But it is important for people to understand that even if the environmental impact is not significant to large long-lived mammals, it is significant to smaller beings

        To the contrary, similar exposure will have a larger effect on big, long-lived animals like humans. It's possible that this butterfly has an unusually narrow genetic variation due to specialization or happenstance which means it might show effects of mutation more easily. Say like cheetahs supposedly are less varied than leopards.

        • by khallow (566160)
          I should explain this better. The number of mutations experienced by the organism is crudely linear to the volume of the organism and amount of radiation exposure (which in turn has some dependence on the lifespan of the creature). The number of inheritable mutations created will be somewhat less than the above, I think, due both to the smaller volume of sexual organs and the much larger threshold that sperm in large animals needs to overcome in order to fertilize eggs (more competition from more sperm, a l
    • "Two Cars in Every Garage and Three Eyes on Every Fish"

    • by toygeek (473120)

      That's not evolution, thats natural selection. Huge difference.

    • This would indeed barely news, but that's an indictment of "news," not this finding. It's important. A scientific finding of "here are the problems, they're not catastrophic" is important.
    • My hypothetical conservative friend says butterflies don't matter, and neither do frogs or furry animals or lower-class humans. When the Job Creators start spawning hideous offspring, then maybe we've got a story here.

    • The point is not the damage to the butterfly as a species, it is that there is measurable and concrete evidence of the damage caused by the radiation leaked from Fukushima Daiichi. For people who (used to) live there, whose livelihoods are based on farming products from that region, who are concerned that TEPCO is trying to reduce the amount of compensation it has to pay out but claiming the damage isn't that bad...

      For those people this is an early and important report, one of many to come over the years and decades they are going to be dealing with this.

  • The government says it's safe, and I believe them! You whacko libertariqans and your anti-gov rhetoric is the true source of evil. The government is just there to help us and protect us!
    /end sarcasm

  • into meat-eaters [isfdb.org] and I'll worry.
  • For a price I take care of this, I have perfect auto-shotgun for this job...if you have no money I also accept rare artifacts.

  • A natural disaster causes a lot of pollutants to escape. I didn't read the article, but has the cause been narrowed down to anything particular?

  • by davidwr (791652) on Monday August 13, 2012 @01:54PM (#40976263) Homepage Journal

    It's a feature!

    Yes, folks, we now have real bugs with features.

  • They're not Mutant Butterflies, they're just discarded packaging from the MSN [iconarchive.com] installer disks from back when they administrated the plant remotely via dialup connection. You know, before the meltdown. They don't use MSN dialup now... that would be silly.
  • by he-sk (103163) on Monday August 13, 2012 @02:30PM (#40976599)

    It's the butterflies' fault. If they had not stopped with the development of nuclear power 30 years ago, they would not suffer from these "abnormalities". After all, modern reactor designs are intrinsically safe!

    Wait. What?!

  • by symbolset (646467) * on Monday August 13, 2012 @03:38PM (#40977299) Journal
    Wait till you see the sharks.

Brain damage is all in your head. -- Karl Lehenbauer

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