In an article to appear on April 12, the New Scientist reveals that the sexual behavior of worms living in the Chernobyl area has been altered. EurekAlert! Science News published a preview of this article yesterday. Here are some short quotes.
Worms contaminated by radioactivity from the Chernobyl nuclear accident have started having sex with each other instead of on their own. According to Ukrainian scientists, they may have changed their sexual behavior to increase their chances of survival. It's one of the first pieces of direct evidence on how wildlife is affected by radioactive pollution.
Gennady Polikarpov and Victoria Tsytsugina from the Institute of Biology of the Southern Seas in Sevastopol studied the reproduction of certain sedimentary worms that are vital to aquatic ecosystems (Journal of Environmental Radioactivity, vol 66, p 141). They compared the behavior of three species in a lake near Chernobyl with the same species in a lake 20 kilometres away. The lakes had similar temperatures and chemical composition, but the worms in the Chernobyl lake had received 20 times as much radiation as those in the other lake.
Two species had switched from asexual to sexual reproduction, as they are capable of doing. The proportion of Nais pardalis seeking partners for sex was 5 per cent in the normal lake but 22 per cent in the Chernobyl lake, while the proportions of Nais pseudobtusa doing the same were 10 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. However, the third species, Dero obtusa, showed double the rate of asexual reproduction in the polluted lake.
More details should appear on April 12 when New Scientist releases the full story.
Reed Business Information Limited, the New Scientist publisher, is not joking with its copyrights. So I'm reproducing here the warning posted by EurekAlert!
"These articles are posted on this site to give advance access to other authorised media who may wish to quote extracts as part of fair dealing with this copyrighted material. Full attribution is required, and if publishing online a link to www.newscientist.com is also required. Advance permission is required before any and every reproduction of each article in full - please contact email@example.com. Please note that all material is copyright of Reed Business Information Limited and we reserve the right to take such action as we consider appropriate to protect such copyright."
Source: Rob Edwards, New Scientist issue dated 12 April 2003 (Preview released by EurekAlert! Science News, April 9, 2003)
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