Chernobyl mutants: How animals exposed to radiation have evolved after the world's worst nuclear disaster

19 February 2024, 10:52 | Updated: 19 February 2024, 12:42

Mutant animals have evolved following the disaster
Mutant animals have evolved following the disaster. Picture: Alamy/Getty

By Emma Soteriou

Almost 40 years on from the Chernobyl disaster, animals continue to face the consequences from extreme radiation exposure, with them being forced to mutate to survive.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

Humans fled the disaster zone surrounding the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant after the deadly explosion in 1986, and have remained away from the area due to the extreme levels of radiation.

But animals, including bears, bison, lynx, foxes, wolves, and more than 200 species of bird still roam the land.

Cancer-fighting wolves

Wolves living in the wasteland were found to have altered immune systems that could give cancer patients a chance of surviving the disease.

A group from Princeton University in the US began looking into how animals had survived in the radiation zone in 2014.

The team took blood samples from wolves and placed GPS collars on the animals that could measure the radiation.

They later found the animals proved resilient to the cancerous atmosphere and its effects by measuring differences in DNA.

Read more: Mutant wolves living in Chernobyl disaster are evolving ability to fight cancer

Read more: Israel sets date for attack on Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians shelter from war, as it rejects two-state solution

Wolf tracks in Chernobyl zone
Wolf tracks in Chernobyl zone. Picture: Getty

Black frogs

Frogs have started becoming darker in colour after remaining in the 'Chernobyl Exclusion Zone'.

In 2016, two researchers shared findings on The Conversation, saying: "Our work reveals that Chernobyl tree frogs have a much darker coloration than frogs captured in control areas outside the zone.

"As we found out in 2016, some are pitch-black. This coloration is not related to the levels of radiation that frogs experience today and that we can measure in all individuals.

"The dark colouration is typical of frogs from within or near the most contaminated areas at the time of the accident."

Feral dogs

Thousands of feral dogs now roam the zone, having descended from pets that were abandoned during the 1986 disaster.

The DNA of more than 300 dogs found living near the power plant was analysed by scientists at the University of South Carolina, who found significant differences to other dogs.

Stray dogs of Chernobyl
Stray dogs of Chernobyl. Picture: Getty


Swallows living within the zone were found to be carrying bacteria which has become more resistant to gamma radiation.

Bacteria from Chernobyl were able to reproduce and thrive when exposed to different doses of radiation.

A study published in Scientific Reports said: "Long-term effects of radiation in natural populations might be an important selective pressure on traits of bacteria that facilitate survival in certain environments."

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Vice President Harris Holds Campaign Event In Maryland On Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Being Overturned

Follow live: Top Dems back Harris and donations surge after Biden quits race

A boy, believed to be 15, was pronounced dead at the scene in Ladbroke Grove

Six arrested after boy, 15, shot dead in park in west London

The collision - involving two vehicles - happened on the A61 Barnsley Road between Staincross, Barnsley, and Newmillerdam, Wakefield

Six people - including two children - die after horror crash between car and motorbike

Joe Biden quits 2024 US presidential race and endorses his VP Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris promises to do 'everything in her power' to defeat Donald Trump after Joe Biden drops out of race

President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden

Jill Biden breaks silence with short emotional tribute to husband Joe after he drops out of Presidential race

Starmer praises Joe Biden's 'remarkable career' as leaders react to president quitting  2024 US presidential race

Starmer praises Joe Biden's 'remarkable career' as leaders react to president quitting 2024 US presidential race

President Joe Biden has dropped out of the 2024 Presidential Race and has endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as the Democratic Nominee.

Kamala Harris says she is running for President in first statement since Joe Biden's shock withdrawal

Joe Biden (l) and Kamala Harris (r)

As Joe Biden steps aside who replaces him as the Democrat candidate to take on Trump and what happens now?

President Biden Addresses The Nation From The White House Oval Office

Joe Biden quits 2024 US election as it happened: President Biden backs VP Kamala Harris as Trump hits out at 'unfit' leader

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event yesterday

Donald Trump slams Joe Biden as ‘worst president in history’ and says Kamala Harris will be ‘easier to beat'

Read Joe Biden’s letter in full as he announces he’s dropping out of 2024 presidential race

Read Joe Biden’s letter in full as he announces he’s dropping out of 2024 US presidential race

Biden withdraws from US presidential race

Joe Biden has endorsed Vice President Kamala Harris as Democratic Presidential nominee

Joe Biden quits 2024 US presidential race and endorses Kamala Harris - as Trump labels him 'unfit to serve'

Joe Biden quits 2024 US presidential race and endorses Kamala Harris - as Trump labels him 'unfit to serve'

The 152nd Open - Day Four

American Xander Schauffele crowned The 152nd Open Champion as he finishes -9 to win in Royal Troon

Breaking News

England beat the West Indies by 241 runs in second Test at Trent Bridge

It comes as a TikTok sleuth who joined the hunt for missing teen Jay Slater said he believes the 19-year-old remains trapped in a Tenerife ravine.

Jay Slater's family blast trolls over bogus leads following sightings on the ‘Eurostar’ and ‘watching the Euros’