|Genetic male frog growing eggs in testes|
|Frog with no legs|
|Frog with too many legs|
But back to the study that has captured the world's attention in the last couple weeks: the malformations of the pale grass blue butterfly in Japan presumed to be due to the Fukushima nuclear accident resulting from the natural disaster.
|Diagram from the study on aberrant wings|
The butterfly mutation study, unfortunately, has some rather unscientific facts not made clear through the media:
- The study had small numbers of samples from arbitrary locations between the May and September samplings.
- It was stated that there was a correlation between radiation exposure and abnormalities, but given with potential errors far higher than accepted in statistics to make any statement. ("p" should be less than 0.05, here, it was 0.13) This is not good science or good research.
- The study picked only a few of these to breed (ranging between 1 and 6 of each sex, usually 2-3) to form the first generation ("F1") including those with abnormalities.
- For the second generation ("F2"), the study only used 1 "significantly aberrant" female with a couple males from a single locality.
Compounding the small sample sizes, out of the 11 different locations sampled only 7 had similar locations sampled in both May and September. Not surprisingly, the paper does not offer many direct comparisons between the two time periods. There might be statistical significance to the increase in abnormalities between the two sample periods, but statistical information between the two are not provided.
What of the external radiation exposure with abnormality correlation? The dose used was 1,000 to almost 100,000 times higher than external exposure listed at the sample collection sites. There is a difference between natural and low levels of radiation and levels hundreds of thousands of times higher- low levels can be beneficial, and high levels obviously can cause damage.
Last, the internal radiation exposure had two main statistical results: mortality effects and forewing size differences. The mortality effects were found not to be statistically significant. There was found to be forewing size differences between different male pairs from different locales and even female pairs from different locales to a significant statistical degree. This may be due to different radiation levels, or different pollution levels, or it may be due to any number of factors present at each locality or even regional differences.
Here is the good news: regardless of whether higher radiation has increased abnormalities, nature is accustomed to radiation and weeds out detrimental mutations and keeps the beneficial mutations--the species ends up growing stronger. On top of that, radiation by its essence decays and within a couple decades Cesium 137 will be more negligible.
This brings us to the sad news facing the frogs. Nature does not have a good way to deal with ever-accumulating unnatural chemicals in our food chain. This includes any kind of chemical pollution- whether from pesticides for agriculture, isolating rare earth metals for magnets in wind turbines, or from the many tons of mercury and lead released by coal burning worldwide, from the 50+ chemicals used to make solar panels, or from millions of pounds of chemicals injected into the ground for fracking. We must make changes now before it is too late. What can you do? Buy organic produce and organically grown meats, and think twice before using pesticides and other dangerous household chemicals.