February 23, 2024 at 10:48 am

The Wolves In Chernobyl Have Developed Genetic Mutations That Protect Them From Cancer

by Trisha Leigh

Source: Shutterstock

If you – like most people – imagine that exposure to massive amounts of radiation would be nothing but bad, you’re about to be surprised.

I mean, I still wouldn’t recommend trying it, though.

That said, the wolves living inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone (CEZ) are experiencing a change in their genetics that might be for the better.

Their mutations seem to actually be protecting them from cancer.

Wolves, along with other animals, have thrived in the CEZ since the nuclear disaster in 1986. Wildlife has also boomed, free from having to contend with humans for local resources.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Xopc

Cara Love, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton, has been studying why and how this is possible with these levels of radiation.

They’ve gathered blood samples from the wolves, as well as fitted them with radio collars to get more information.

“We get real-time measurements of where they are and how much radiation they are exposed to.”

What they found was that the wolves in the CEZ had absorbed more than 11.28 millirem of radiation every day of their lives – six times the legal limit for human workers.

They believe this radiation, which is similar to the treatment cancer patients undergo, is what helped them develop a resilience to the disease.

They found similar results in the feral dogs there, which are genetically different from pet dogs in other parts of the world.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Slawojar

The researchers are hoping to be able to use this information to potentially protect humans from cancer in the future. Current global issues, like the war in Ukraine and the pandemic, have prevented them from returning to Chernobyl, however.

“Our priority is for people and collaborators there to be as safe as possible.”

If only that was the priority for the rest of the world.

Who knows how far we might have come by now.

Thought that was fascinating? Here’s another story you might like: Why You’ll Never See A Great White Shark In An Aquarium