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Radioactive Wildlife

February 15, 2014

In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Reactor in Ukraine went into meltdown, causing a massive ecological disaster.  Radiation flooded the environment and all humans had to evacuate.  The trees wilted and all the animals were dying of cancer and other forms of sickness.  But what about today?

The BBC released a really fascinating story.  A group of animals remained there in the area, and over several generations, they’ve evolved an immunity to the radiation.  There are bears roaming the forest, pigeons and starlings in the trees, and lynxs wandering around the ground.  These native radioactive animals are perfectly healthy, almost as if nothing ever happened.  Here’s a photograph of a Przewalski horse, who doesn’t seem to notice that he’s being bombarded with lethal doses of radiation every hour of the day.

If you take animals from anywhere else and put them there, they develop cancer, get sick, and die.  These radioactive animals are different.  They’re now immune.  We could never eat them, but that’s to their advantage, I guess.

In the 1980s, there was a lot of public uproar about all of this.  People worried that our meddling in nature would end life on the planet eventually.  This case is actually different though.  Twenty-five years later, some environmentalists are joking that we should place radioactive nuclear waste in every rainforest to protect the animals and wildlife from humans.

Life is resilient.  It will find ways to exploit any sort of environmental catastrophe.  We’re here because a giant meteor came down from space and wiped out the dinosaurs.

Topics: Evolution | 1 Comment »

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