Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Chernobyl's radioactivity reduced populations of birds of orange plumage, study finds

Date:
April 26, 2011
Source:
Plataforma SINC
Summary:
On April 26, 1986, history's greatest nuclear accident took place northwest of the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl. Despite the scale of the disaster, 25 years later, we still do not know its real effects. An international team of investigators has shown for the first time that the color of birds' plumage may make them more vulnerable to radioactivity.

One of the birds included in the study, the common swallow (Hirundo rustica), with a reddish tint on its throat.
Credit: Rafael Palomo Santana

On April 26, 1986, history's greatest nuclear accident took place northwest of the Ukrainian city of Chernobyl. Despite the scale of the disaster, 25 years later, we still do not know its real effects. An international team of investigators has shown for the first time that the colour of birds' plumage may make them more vulnerable to radioactivity.

Related Articles


Radiation causes oxidative stress, damages biological molecules and may have "important" negative effects on organisms in relatively high doses, like those found in certain zones close to Chernobyl.

"In the case of the birds studied, these effects were seen in the size of their populations," says Ismael Galván, lead author of the study and researcher in the Laboratory of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution at the University of Paris-Sur, in France.

According to the study, which has been published in the journal Oecologia, bird populations fell as the levels of radiation in peripheral zones of Chernobyl (Ukraine) rose. In total, the researchers analysed the abundance of 97 bird species exposed to different levels of radiation during four years.

In the majority of the birds (64 species), the populations diminished with the level or radioactivity. "Nevertheless, the populations of a few species (the 33 remaining species) experienced positive effects from the radiation (though the magnitude of these effects was very low in some cases), perhaps due to the reduction in competition with other species," explains Galván.

Colour: a bird's weak or strong point

The scientists concentrated on the colouring generated by melanins -- pigments which protect from ultraviolet radiation and generate camouflage patterns -- of the nearly one hundred species of bird studied. The reason: the type of pigmentation may interfere with the ability to resist radioactivity's negative effects.

"The impact on the populations depends, at least in part, on the amount of plumage whose colouring is generated by pheomelanin, one of the two main types of melanins, which produces orangish and brownish colours," the Spanish expert adds.

The birds of Chernobyl with the most pheomelanism (with the most plumage coloured by pheomelanin) were judged to be the "most negatively" affected by the radioactivity. As the pigment consumes glutathione (one of the antioxidants most susceptible to radiation and whose level tends to be diminished by its effects), in these birds, the capacity to combat the oxidative stress generated by radiation "probably" diminishes.


Story Source:

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


Journal Reference:

  1. Ismael Galván, Timothy A. Mousseau, Anders P. Mřller. Bird population declines due to radiation exposure at Chernobyl are stronger in species with pheomelanin-based coloration. Oecologia, 2010; 165 (4): 827 DOI: 10.1007/s00442-010-1860-5

Cite This Page:

Plataforma SINC. "Chernobyl's radioactivity reduced populations of birds of orange plumage, study finds." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 April 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110426071149.htm>.
Plataforma SINC. (2011, April 26). Chernobyl's radioactivity reduced populations of birds of orange plumage, study finds. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110426071149.htm
Plataforma SINC. "Chernobyl's radioactivity reduced populations of birds of orange plumage, study finds." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/04/110426071149.htm (accessed December 19, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Plants & Animals News

Friday, December 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) — In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Monarch Butterflies Descend Upon Mexican Forest During Annual Migration

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 19, 2014) — Millions of monarch butterflies begin to descend onto Mexico as part of their annual migration south. Rough Cut (no reporter narration) Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Birds Might Be Better Meteorologists Than Us

Newsy (Dec. 19, 2014) — A new study suggests a certain type of bird was able to sense a tornado outbreak that moved through the U.S. a day before it hit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Navy Unveils Robot Fish

Reuters - Light News Video Online (Dec. 18, 2014) — The U.S. Navy unveils an underwater device that mimics the movement of a fish. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
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:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

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