An international team of researchers studied gender abundances and singing behavior in birds from eight areas with varying levels of radiation contamination near Chernobyl, Ukraine, the center of the catastrophe that began with an explosion in a nuclear power plant on April 26, 1986.
The results, published in PLoS One, were clear: higher levels of contamination went hand-in-hand with greater male-to-female ratios.
"We're seeing higher mortalities for females than males, reflecting the increased costs of reproduction in these stressful environments," said co-author Timothy Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of South Carolina. Male bird mortality also increased with background radiation levels, he added, but the female susceptibility to contamination was far stronger.
Counting the number of birds singing in each area, the researchers found that the percentage chirping was higher in the more contaminated areas. Given the relative dearth of females in those areas, the team concluded that lonely bachelors were spending more time calling out for mates.
That observation means that some earlier Chernobyl data might beg an even more stark interpretation. "When we did the original censuses, the standard method for doing a bird count is birds that you can either see or hear," Mousseau said. "So our early estimates of abundance were probably overestimates in the contaminated areas."
The data also showed higher percentages of yearlings, rather than more mature birds, in the areas of higher contamination. "It's what we've seen for many years now," said Mousseau, the director of the Chernobyl Research Initiative at USC, which has sponsored studies on the long-term ecological and health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster since 1998, including many collaborations with this paper's co-author Anders Møller of the CNRS in France. "Within the Chernobyl zone, it's very heterogeneous – where the contamination levels are high, there are far fewer birds."
The team captured and examined birds to determine their sex in regions with background radiation ranging from 0.02 to 138 micro-Sv per hour (0.02 to 0.05 micro-Sv per hour are normal background radiation levels in the northern Ukraine).
Steven Powell | Newswise Science News
Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)
The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft
University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event
On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...
Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.
Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....
Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).
When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...
Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.
How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...
Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.
It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...
17.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
10.10.2017 | Event News
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Life Sciences
17.10.2017 | Earth Sciences