Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brightly Colored Birds Most Affected By Chernobyl Radiation

Date:
July 12, 2007
Source:
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.
Summary:
Brightly coloured birds are among the species most adversely affected by the high levels of radiation around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, ecologists have discovered. The findings help explain why some species are harder hit by ionising radiation than others.

Among the brightly coloured species most affected were orioles (like this one shown above), blackbirds and blue tits, while drab species like tree pipits, coal tits and chaffinches were much less affected.
Credit: iStockphoto/Bill Raboin

Brightly coloured birds are among the species most adversely affected by the high levels of radiation around the Chernobyl nuclear plant, ecologists have discovered. The findings -- published online in the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology -- help explain why some species are harder hit by ionising radiation than others.

Dr Anders Møller of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie and Professor Timothy Mousseau of the University of South Carolina examined 1,570 birds from 57 different species in the forests around Chernobyl at varying distances from the reactor. They found that populations of four groups of birds -- those whose red, yellow and orange plumage is based on carotenoids, those that laid the biggest eggs, and those that migrated or dispersed the furthest -- declined more than other species.

The intriguing results centre on the role of antioxidants -- chemicals that help protect living organisms from the damaging effects of free radicals. Certain activities use up large amounts of antioxidants. These include producing carotenoid-based pigments for feathers, migrating long distances and laying large eggs (birds lay down antioxidants in their eggs, and will deposit larger amounts of antioxidants in larger eggs). Møller and Mousseau hypothesized that because they had fewer antioxidants left to mop up dangerous free radicals, these birds would most adversely affected by exposure to radiation around Chernobyl.

According to Møller and Mousseau: "We found that bird species differed in their response to radiation from Chernobyl. The strongest declines in population density with radiation level were found for species with carotenoid-based plumage, long-distance migration and dispersal, and large eggs for their body size. All four of these factors are associated with antioxidant levels, suggesting that reduced antioxidant levels may cause population declines when species are exposed to radiation."

Among the brightly coloured species most affected were orioles, blackbirds and blue tits, while drab species like tree pipits, coal tits and chaffinches were much less affected. Long distance migrants or dispersers that were most affected included quails, orioles, hoopoes, blackbirds and robins, while non-migrant or short-dispersing species like great tits, coal tits and song thrushes were much less affected.

"This is the first study linking the effects of radiation on population size of different species to antioxidant defence. Although all species must cope with the potentially detrimental effects of free radicals, because of their use of antioxidants, certain species are predisposed to suffer most from these negative effects," they say.

The results could have important implications for other animals elsewhere. According to Møller and Mousseau: "There is large variation in natural levels of radioactivity due to differences in the abundance of radioactive isotopes, mainly in mountain regions where the underlying rock reaches the surface. There are no studies of the biological consequences of such variation in natural levels of radioactivity, but we suggest that some of the consequences can be predicted from the present study."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Brightly Colored Birds Most Affected By Chernobyl Radiation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 July 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070711105732.htm>.
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. (2007, July 12). Brightly Colored Birds Most Affected By Chernobyl Radiation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070711105732.htm
Blackwell Publishing Ltd.. "Brightly Colored Birds Most Affected By Chernobyl Radiation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/07/070711105732.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) — An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

San Diego Zoo Welcomes New, Rare Rhino Calf

Reuters - US Online Video (July 21, 2014) — An endangered black rhino baby is the newest resident at the San Diego Zoo. Sasha Salama reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) — A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

$23.6 Billion Awarded To Widow In Smoking Lawsuit

Newsy (July 20, 2014) — Cynthia Robinson claims R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company hid the health and addiction risks of its products, leading to the death of her husband in 1996. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins