he exploded reactor within Chornobyl, and securing the radiation reservoir is what have been prioritized by scientists since the tragic event which took place in 1986. Everyone left except all the stray animals (mostly dogs), which had suffered almost 50 years of mutation through radiation. With every generation, these dogs have become more mutated due to the alteration within their DNA, but somehow they survive the radiation.
The Chornobyl disaster happened on April 26, 1986, at the No. 4 reactor in the Chornobyl Nuclear Power Station in the city of Pripyat, in what was then the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union.
An explosion and accompanying fire during a late-night safety test released enormous volumes of radioactive particles into the air. A combination of design problems, operator mistakes, and a lack of safety precautions contributed to the accident.
Soldiers at the time had been instructed to kill all stray animals to stop the spread of radiation and mutation. However, this did not stop other stray dogs from coming to Chornobyl in the following years.
Mutated Dogs of Chernobyl
A study performed since 2017, looks into how these stray dogs have been affected by the radiation and the sort of health implications this prolonged mutation over generations has had on them.
DNA recovered from feral dogs living near the power plant now suggests that they are the descendants of dogs who were either present at the time of the catastrophe or arrived in the area shortly after. This is the first genetic investigation of any large mammal in the area around Chornobyl.
The study, which was published on March 3 in Science Advances, is the first stage in a bigger project to determine how the canines have adapted to thrive in one of the most radioactive environments on the planet. The findings should help researchers better understand the impact of long-term radiation exposure on human DNA and health.
Co-author Timothy Mousseau, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, participated in a volunteer mission in 2017 to provide veterinary care to hundreds of stray canines living in the exclusion zone, a 2,600-square-kilometer area around the power plant that Ukrainian officials restrict entry to for safety reasons.
Mousseau and his colleagues gathered blood samples from roughly 300 canines living at the power plant and surrounding the mainly deserted city of Chornobyl over the course of three years of travels to the area after volunteers subdued the animals with tranquilizer darts.
The results of the study surprisingly showed that most of the dogs were actually from Chornobyl, meaning that some soldiers did their job very poorly or the dogs were very good at hiding. Dogs living just a few kilometers away had very different genetics to the ones from Chornobyl.
The difficult part for the scientists is to understand which genetic mutations have been caused by the radiation and which have been caused by other factors such as inbreeding.