Chernobyl wolves could spread their radioactive genes

A study found the first evidence of the movement of these predators out of the nuclear disaster exclusion zone

On April 26, 1986, a catastrophic accident occurred in Unit 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine, in the former USSR.

The mishap happened due to the coincidence of several factors. As for example, that the reactor did not have an updated security system.

On the fateful night, there was an experiment going on but a serious failure in the machines generated the explosions and later the very high radioactivity .

By strict orders of the authorities, the area of ​​4 thousand 300 kilometers was uninhabited , trying in this way to protect the population.

Although it has been without people for years, there are creatures who have taken advantage of the desolation to reproduce and make the land their home.

The withdrawal of humans favored the proliferation of various species of wild animals , including lynx, mice, wild boar, deer and horses.

In particular, the population density of gray wolves reached seven times that of other surrounding reserves, reaching a limit in the proportion of large predators that can inhabit the same place.

study published recently in the European Journal of Wildlife Researchrevealed that wolves inhabiting the area could disperse their genes – very possibly altered by mutations – for the rest of Europe.

To monitor the movements of these animals, the researchers placed necklaces with GPS transmitters  to fourteen gray wolves-13 adults over two years old and a younger one between 1 and 2 years of age-that live in the contaminated area.

Thanks to this, the scientists determined that unlike the adult specimens, which remained within the 30 kilometer diameter of the exclusion zone, the young wolf traveled a distance of 369 kilometers  in the course of 21 days. However, a fault in the transmitter prevented to find out if later the animal returned to its habitat or it migrated permanently.

“These results are the first test of the dispersion of wolves beyond the limits of the area contaminated by radiation. It would be reasonable to assume that something similar is also happening with other species, said  Michael Byrne , a specialist at the University of Missouri (USA) and lead author of the study, to the Live Science portal.”

Chernobyl wolves could spread their radioactive genes

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