Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Breeding for radiation tolerance?

The Economist reports that a team compared birds found in a radiation area (0.5-35 microsieverts/hour) near Fukushima and those found in similar areas near Chernobyl. The drop in bird numbers was twice as large at Fukushima. While they admit that this might be because different isotopes could, by being absorbed into the body differently, deliver different doses, they attribute this to birds having adapted to the radiation environment at Chernobyl. Not perfectly--there's still a decrease in number relative to low-radiation areas.

This is something I've been watching--birds having 5% smaller brains in the radiation area, and mice that tolerate radiation better than outsiders.

I still think it would be easy to compare growth rates of the offspring of captured mice to those found nearby. It should be slower.


Texan99 said...

I've been reading Nick Lane's excellent book "Oxygen." He points out that respiration (i.e., oxygen) causes damage that's biochemically the same thing as radiation poisoning, though most air-breathing creatures have evolved mechanisms for coping with oxygen damage that fall apart when subjected to too much of the same kind of damage, too quickly, from radiation. But critters that readily withstand radiation didn't develop their defensive tools out of nowhere after the dawn of the Atomic Age: they built on the exactly the same kind of mechanisms they'd been using for eons to repair damage from oxygen.

james said...

That goes on the list.

Texan99 said...

Well, treat yourself to any Nick Lane you can find. "Power, Sex, Suicide" (about mitochondria) is just wonderful.