Environmental radioactivity damages the DNA of earthworms of Fukushima Prefecture, Japan
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- Fujita, Y., Yoshihara, Y., Sato, I. et al. Eur J Wildl Res (2014) 60: 145. doi:10.1007/s10344-013-0767-y
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Radioactive materials released in 2011 during the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant are expected to become concentrated in wildlife via the food web, triggering DNA damage. However, the extent of this wildlife DNA damage remains unknown. We explored the effects of exposure to environmental radiation on the DNA of wild boars (Sus scrofa leucomystax) and earthworms (Megascolecidae) and examined the modes of transfer of radioactivity to these animals. We used a comet assay to analyze the DNA damage in animals collected from regions with low (0.28 μSv/h) and high (2.85 μSv/h) levels of atmospheric radiation. We constructed a model food web featuring the wild boar as the top predator, and we measured the radioactivity levels in soil, plant material, earthworms, and wild boar. The extent of DNA damage in wild boars did not differ significantly between animals captured in the two regions, but earthworms from the “high-dose” region had a significantly greater extent of DNA damage than did those from the “low-dose” region. Radioactive material can be accumulated either directly from the soil or indirectly via plant ingestion. Wildlife inhabiting radioactively contaminated areas is at high risk of DNA damage although the risk varies among species because of the differences in foraging habits. The long-term results of the observed DNA damage must be studied.