Watch: Dogs in Chernobyl have ‘mutated’ because of constant exposure to radiation


Dogs and pups roaming the deserted nuclear power station in Chernobyl have mutated because of constant exposure to radiation. Before you start thinking of X-men upon reading the word mutated, the reality is, that the dogs have become genetically different from other species of dogs, they have not acquired some superpower.

A team of scientists from the United States have been analyising blood samples from the 302 remaining dogs and puppies in the area to study the impact of the catastrophic blast in 1986.

The dogs are believed to be descendants of pets abandoned by locals when they fled the Ukrainian area.

What the study revealed
The dogs in Chernobyl today, can be divided into three genetically similar groups, according to researchers from the University of South Carolina and the National Human Genome Research Center.

Dogs in Chernobyl have ‘mutated’ because of constant exposure to radiation, reveals study (1)

Each of these groups lives in either the nuclear power plant, in Chernobyl City, or in Slavutych, a city about 45 kilometres away that was constructed specifically for evacuees.

Because these groups live at varying distances from the explosion location, scientists could use DNA to identify a dog’s degree of radiation exposure.

According to the researchers, the populations could improve the “understanding of the biological underpinnings of animals and, ultimately, human survival in areas of high and continuous environmental assault.”

Between 2017 and 2019, scientists returned to see the surviving canine inhabitants, who had managed to find food, breed and survive.

The vast majority of the dogs stayed either inside the derelict facility, or at the adjacent railway station, or in Chernobyl City, about nine miles 15 kilometres away.

Only a few dogs lived in Slavutych, where they were less vulnerable to radiation.

DNA was also gathered from approximately 200 free-breeding dogs from other areas of Ukraine and other nations.

They hope to investigate the impacts of the radioactive substance on the DNA of the Chernobyl canines, or the absence thereof, through comparison.

Geneticist and study author Dr Elaine Ostrander said: ‘We’ve had this great chance’ to set the foundation for addressing a vital question: “How do you live in a hostile climate like this for 15 generations?

How the dog survived after the blast, the radiation and being hunted
On April 26, 1986, one of the reactors at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Pripyat caught fire and detonated, releasing radioactive material into the environment.

Thirty employees were slain immediately, and the long-term death toll from radiation poisoning is expected to be in the thousands.

Immediately after the disaster, more than 1,60,000 people were removed from nearby towns and villages, and relocated in other places. The people rescued could only take what they could transport, which meant they had to leave their cherished pets behind.

The Soviet army sent several squads and teams to exterminate these pets in order to prevent them from spreading radioactive contamination. However, some of these dogs escaped these hunting squads by hiding in nearby forests.

Dogs in Chernobyl have ‘mutated’ because of constant exposure to radiation, reveals study (2)

They were protected from radiation by the large and dense foliage of the forest. The forest also provided fresh game and ample potable water for the dogs to survive.

Chernobyl, a haven for endangered species
Meanwhile, Chernobyl has emerged as a haven for a number of endangered species. The exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl, the site of the world’s worst nuclear catastrophe, has now become home to a few species of horses, moose and hares.

These include herds of endangered Przewalski’s horse which disappeared from the wild 100 years ago. You can also see European bison, which were thought to have been hunted to extinction in the 1920s.

Big herbivores like bison and moose also mean big predatory animals are also around. Reporters who go into the exclusion zone for their stories have also reported seeing several packs of wolves.

Moreover, there are tons of birds and other smaller creatures as well.

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Watch: Dogs in Chernobyl have ‘mutated’ because of constant exposure to radiation
Watch: Dogs in Chernobyl have ‘mutated’ because of constant exposure to radiation
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