Does Chernobyl Have Mutated Animals?

By Antonia Čirjak on March 16 2020 in Environment

The plants and animals of Chernobyl are mutants, but they look perfectly normal.
The plants and animals of Chernobyl are mutants, but they look perfectly normal.
  • Most species of mammals and birds did not show significant changes in behavior or appearance.
  • Because of HBO's miniseries
  • Chernobyl today is considered to be a ghost town, but some animals and people still live there.

No, Chernobyl did not produce the X-Men, or X-Animals for that matter. The plants and animals of Chernobyl are mutants, but they look perfectly normal. Sure, they might have radioactive particles hidden in their fur, but the physical mutation is not actually making the glow or sprout extra limbs.

The History Of Chernobyl

The recent Emmy-winning HBO's miniseries "Chernobyl" sparked new interest in the public and even inspired tourism to this previously abandoned city. While the show might not have been incredibly accurate in representing the actual events of the disaster, it enabled it's viewers to be a part of something of incredible historical significance. Chernobyl is located in the Ivankiv Raion, a district in Kiev Oblast of Ukraine.

Before the notorious accident happened, Chernobyl had around 14,000 citizens. After the accident occurred at the town's nuclear power plant, releasing a deadly amount of radioactive substances in the air, approximately 125,000 people have died. They died from the effects of the radiation and the illnesses that were the result of the accident. Casualties were increasing the following days, months, and years. Today, Chernobyl is mostly considered a ghost town, but a certain amount of people and animals still live there.

The Chernobyl Zoo

Following the disastrous events, around 350,000 people have been evacuated from several Ukraine countries. But what is especially interesting is that most of the animals did not leave. What happened to the wildlife of Chernobyl? This has been studied for more than 30 years. When the power plant exploded, radioactive particles were sent all over the sky, contaminating over 200,000 square kilometers of the landmass. After these particles settled, they affected almost everything, from land to water.

The worst happened in the first twenty days, as the radioactive particles were being inhaled by most of the wildlife. Plants and animals took almost 80% of all the radiation surrounding them, and the wildlife is still coping with the aftermath of the radiation.

Plants and animals took almost 80% of all the radiation surrounding them, and the wildlife is still coping with the aftermath of the radiation.
Plants and animals took almost 80% of all the radiation surrounding them, and the wildlife is still coping with the aftermath of the radiation.

The most impactful environmental effect was the area called The Red Forest, filled with dying trees that stopped producing seeds, growing at irregular frequencies, and having trouble photosynthesizing. Insects stopped maturing, growing up with bizarre asymmetries and butterflies had their population significantly decreased.

Surprisingly, for most species of birds and mammals, there were no significant changes in appearance or behavior. The radiation did harm these species, but the genetic damage from the radiation did not produce the mutation we are expected to see due to science fiction movies. Sure, there might have been some slight discoloration of bird feathers, but no study actually documents deformed animals in the Chernobyl. It either killed the organisms or encouraged them to leave the area of radiation.

How Are Animals Doing Today?

We still do not know the full story of Chernobyl's wildlife, and there is no scientific consensus to support a definite conclusion. Still, the majority of research seems to think that animals are doing pretty good since enduring the effects of radiation. Today, wildlife areas seem to be doing surprisingly well. This is what boggles scientists because it is not something we might expect.

It might be the removal of humans for over 20 years that made the ecosystem around Chernobyl endure. Researchers are surprised by the number of wolves, crediting such a rise in population due to lack of hunting. Regardless of the radiation exposure, it seems like the animal community started to thrive after almost 30 years of being exposed to radiation. It seems like the presence of humans is worse for the environment than a nuclear disaster. 

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