Chornobyl frogs changed color: it may have helped them survive

By TravelWiseFeb 29, 2024 22:56 PMNews
Chornobyl frogs have changed color
Chornobyl frogs have changed color. Source: Freepik

It would be easy to assume that there is little life left in the area irradiated by the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster. However, despite everything, some species have adapted, including eastern tree frogs.

How did they do it? Researchers believe it may come down to the rapid development of a different skin color. Oriental tree frogs (Hyla orientalis) are usually bright green, but in 2016, a team of researchers working in Chornobyl came across several frogs with black skin. Later, they returned to study the population in detail, spending three years studying more than 200 male frogs caught from ponds both in the Chornobyl exclusion zone in northern Ukraine and beyond, according to І

Chornobyl frogs changed color: it may have helped them survive
Chornobyl frogs changed color: it may have helped them survive. Source:

The team found that these frogs found in the exclusion zone "had a surprisingly darker back skin color than frogs from outside the zone." Why did their skin become darker? To protect them from radiation, the researchers suggest.

Frogs with darker skin have more of a group of pigments called melanin; more melanin can lead to darker skin and hair, but it can also protect against radiation, including the ionizing radiation found in Chornobyl.

"Dark coloration is known to protect against various sources of radiation by neutralizing free radicals and reducing DNA damage, and melanin pigmentation, in particular, has been proposed as a buffering mechanism against ionizing radiation," the researchers write in their article.

The skin color of the frogs was darkest in areas closest to the explosion and where radiation was high at the time of the disaster - current radiation levels did not seem to be affected. The team suggests that this means that "high levels of ionizing radiation, likely at the time of the accident, may have been selected for in the darker coloration of the Chornobyl frogs."

As reported by TravelWise, a Spanish family was shocked after returning home from a vacation in Thailand and discovering that they had brought a frog with them.

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