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      The Fukushima nuclear accident and the pale grass blue butterfly: evaluating biological effects of long-term low-dose exposures

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          On August 9th 2012, we published an original research article in Scientific Reports, concluding that artificial radionuclides released from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant exerted genetically and physiologically adverse effects on the pale grass blue butterfly Zizeeria maha in the Fukushima area. Immediately following publication, many questions and comments were generated from all over the world. Here, we have clarified points made in the original paper and answered questions posed by the readers.


          The following points were clarified. (1) There are many advantages to using the pale grass blue butterfly as an indicator species. (2) The forewings of the individuals collected in Fukushima were significantly smaller than in the northern and southern localities. (3) We observed growth retardation in the butterflies from the Fukushima area. (4) The aberrant colour patterns in the butterflies obtained in the Fukushima area were different from the colour patterns induced by temperature and sibling crosses but similar to those induced by external and internal exposures to the artificial radionuclides and by a chemical mutagen, suggesting that genetic mutations caused the aberrations. (5) This species of butterfly has been plentiful in Fukushima area for at least half a century. We here present specimens collected from Fukushima Prefecture before the accident. (6) Mutation accumulation was detected by the increase in the abnormality rates from May 2011 to September 2011. (7) The abnormal traits were heritable. (8) Our sampling localities were not affected by the tsunami. (9) We used a high enough number of samples to obtain statistically significant results. (10) The standard rearing method was followed, producing normal adults in the control groups. (11) The exposure experiments successfully reproduced the results of the field work. This species of butterfly is vulnerable to long-term low-dose internal and external exposures; however, insect cells are known to be resistant to short-term high-dose irradiation. This discrepancy is reconcilable based on the differences in the experimental conditions.


          We are just beginning to understand the biological effects of long-term low-dose exposures in animals. Further research is necessary to accurately assess the possible biological effects of the accident.

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          Phenotypic plasticity (the ability of a single genotype to produce multiple phenotypes in response to variation in the environment) is commonplace. Yet its evolutionary significance remains controversial, especially in regard to whether and how it impacts diversification and speciation. Here, we review recent theory on how plasticity promotes: (i) the origin of novel phenotypes, (ii) divergence among populations and species, (iii) the formation of new species and (iv) adaptive radiation. We also discuss the latest empirical support for each of these evolutionary pathways to diversification and identify potentially profitable areas for future research. Generally, phenotypic plasticity can play a largely underappreciated role in driving diversification and speciation. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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              The introduction and rapid spread of Drosophila subobscura in the New World two decades ago provide an opportunity to determine the predictability and rate of evolution of a geographic cline. In ancestral Old World populations, wing length increases clinally with latitude. In North American populations, no wing length cline was detected one decade after the introduction. After two decades, however, a cline has evolved and largely converged on the ancestral cline. The rate of morphological evolution on a continental scale is very fast, relative even to rates measured within local populations. Nevertheless, different wing sections dominate the New versus Old World clines. Thus, the evolution of geographic variation in wing length has been predictable, but the means by which the cline is achieved is contingent.

                Author and article information

                BMC Evol Biol
                BMC Evol. Biol
                BMC Evolutionary Biology
                BioMed Central
                12 August 2013
                : 13
                : 168
                [1 ]The BCPH Unit of Molecular Physiology, Department of Chemistry, Biology and Marine Science, Faculty of Science, University of the Ryukyus, 1 Senbaru, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan
                Copyright ©2013 Hiyama et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.



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