Chernobyl Shrunk Birds’ Brains
Chernobyl, the site of the worst nuclear disaster in world history, serves as an exemplar of just how far humans can go in destroying the natural world. A recent study conducted by a team led by University of South Carolina biology professor Dr. Timothy Mousseau showed that the long-term results of the 1986 disaster include smaller brains in birds, five percent smaller on average, to be exact. This is obviously not good for the birds:
In this study, published this month in the journal PLoS One, Mousseau and his colleagues studied 550 birds belonging to 48 different species living in exclusion zones set up around the site of the accident. The researchers found the small brains were particularly evident in the youngest birds.
“This suggests that many of the birds with smaller brains are not surviving to the next year, perhaps related to decreased cognitive abilities.” “Mousseau said not only are their brains smaller, but it seems they are not as capable at dealing with their environment as evidenced by their lower rates of survival”.