PHOTO: Chernobyl Frogs Look Drastically Different 36 Years After the Disaster

by Suzanne Halliburton
Sven-Erik Arndt/Arterra/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Study the tree frogs if you want to see what sort of damage the Chernobyl explosion caused almost four decades ago.

Back on April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor No. 4 became unstable and exploded twice. The reactor burned for eight days, spewing radiation that landed all over Europe and parts of what was the Soviet Union. Historically speaking, Chernobyl released the largest amount of radioactive material ever recorded in human history. The Fukushima disaster in Japan in 2011 was comparable.

Scientists still are studying the impact all these years later. And they’ve found some interesting details by analyzing the tree frogs that live near Chernobyl. It should be noted that the land surrounding the disaster area is now a nature reserve. All sorts of animals live there, from bears to wolves and lynxes. And there are lots of frogs. A ton of the tree frogs now are a “pitch-black” color. They’re normally bright green, the same color as a leaf. According to researchers studied the coloring of 200 eastern tree frogs over a two-year spain.

The color of the Chernobyl tree frogs varied. But researchers discovered the reason why. The closer the tree frog lived to the areas with historically high levels of radiation, the darker it was. The current radiation levels didn’t matter.

The State Newspaper tweeted photos of the Chernobyl tree frogs. Take a quick look at the pictures and we’ll then tell you what the researchers said about the color change.

It’s All About Melanin with the Chernobyl Frogs

Remember your science classes? Melanin is the pigment in our skin that turns darker when we’re exposed to sunlight. Well, frogs have melanin, too. Melanin also offers protection from ultraviolet radiation by absorbing it, then getting rid of it. Plus, the melanin also offered some obvious details about natural selection. The frogs that survived the initial Chernobyl explosion were the darker ones. And eventually, those frogs became the majority ones. They reproduced through the years and became the dominant frog hanging out in the nature preserve surrounding Chernobyl.

Researchers took note of this that the tree frogs living in the Chornobyl Exclusion Zone “were remarkably darker.”

Chernobyl was in the news earlier this year. The old plant, once part of the USSR, is in present-day Ukraine about 95 miles north of Kyiv, the country’s capital. It’s also near the border with Belarus. In February, when Russia invaded Ukraine, the Russian soldiers took control of the plant for five weeks. Russia kept as many as 1,000 of its soldiers at the plant. And all the military activity kicked off some radiation hotspots.