Numerous dogs that circulate around the surroundings of what was the nuclear plant of Chernobylin Ukrainewere studied to determine possible differences in their DNA, product of radioactivity.
It was indicated that, in this way, scientists try to determine how humans could inhabit hostile and degraded environments.
Genetic analyzes were performed on 302 dogs who wandered through the so-called “exclusion zone” of Chernobyl and these animals were determined to be “genetically different” from the rest of the dogs.
This conclusion is the first in a long series of genetic studies, published in the journal Science Advances.
On this, the geneticist Elaine Ostrander raised the question of “How to survive in a hostile environment for 15 generations”.
Speaking to the PA Agency, Tim MousseauProfessor of Biological Sciences at the University of South Carolinanoted that dogs “provide an incredible tool for looking at the impacts of this kind of environment.”
The Chernobyl explosion
On April 26, 1986, an explosion and subsequent fire at the Reactor Number 4 of the plant in the district of Chernobyl16 kilometers from the city of Pripyatnorth of Ukraine -at that time, part of the Soviet Union– caused the release of radioactive dust into the environment. This contamination lasted for days, spreading the radioactive material for many kilometers around the incident site. The exclusion zone reached a radius of 1600 square kilometers from the plant. After the explosion, some thirty workers died immediately, although over the years it is estimated that mortality from radioactive poisoning could have reached thousands of victims.
The researchers believe that the dogs they are analyzing in these studies are the descendants of those that were abandoned by their owners when they evacuated the area after the catastrophe. In fact, the Ukrainian Ministry of the Interior, under the command of the Kremlinhad ordered that all pets be euthanized. But several animals managed to avoid this appointment with death.
However, after the brutal nuclear disaster, the dogs seem to have managed quite well. Currently, according to a census by the Investigation of Chernobyl dogs that reproduces the Spanish newspaper The country, there are more than 800 wild dogs in the area. “Anything we can learn about how dogs survive in that environment will be of direct relevance to humans in the future.” Chernobyl and other radioactive environments,” he said. Mousseau to the aforementioned medium.
This scientist has been working in the disaster area since the late 1990s. In 2017 he began taking blood samples from these dogs. Some of them live inside the plant, surrounded by an apocalyptic industrial environment. Others are at a distance of between 15 and 45 kilometers from the epicenter of the catastrophe.
The amazing thing was that the DNA of these animals makes it easy to differentiate between dogs found in high, low, and medium radiation zones. “It was a big milestone for us,” he said. ostrenderwho added another striking fact: “The surprising thing is that we can identify around 15 different families of these animals.”
According to the researchers, the findings of these studies could have many applications. Especially since it would provide clues about how humans and other mammals may currently and in the future live in regions under “continuous environmental attack,” such as in the high-radiation environment of space.