Scientists from the University of Uppsala have discovered unusual black frogs in the exclusion zone near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, supposedly protected from radiation. Scientific work published in Evolutionary Applications.
Radiation damages the genetic material of living organisms and causes unwanted mutations. But sometimes radiation can favor animal organisms that are able to live in the zone of radioactive contamination, gain access to food and territorial resources that few people claim.
In 2016, next to a damaged nuclear reactor, scientists discovered several eastern tree frogs Hyla orientalis with an unusual black tint. Usually this species has a bright green color. Over the next three years, the authors analyzed the coloration of more than 200 male frogs caught in 12 different ponds both in the exclusion zone and outside it.
It turned out that frogs with a much darker color live in the exclusion zone. Some of them were completely black. Scientists suggest that the dark pigment melanin allows amphibians to live in conditions of increased radiation. Previously, such a function of melanin was found in fungi. The pigment absorbs and dissipates part of the radiation energy. In addition, it can neutralize reactive oxygen species that damage DNA and cell structures.
The accident at the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986 led to the largest release of radioactive materials into the environment in the history of mankind. Today, this area has become a real nature reserve: a variety of rare species of animals find refuge here, including bears, wolves and lynxes.