Chernobyl's effects on area birds studied

April 26, 2011 at 7:20 PM
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MADRID, April 26 (UPI) -- Birds with orange or brown plumage may have suffered worse radiation effects than other birds from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, a European study concluded.

Ismael Galvan -- a researcher at the Laboratory of Ecology, Systematics and Evolution at the University of Paris-Sur in France -- said the study concentrated on bird coloring generated by melanins, pigments that protect from ultraviolet radiation and generate camouflage patterns.

"The impact on the populations depends, at least in part, on the amount of plumage whose coloring is generated by pheomelanin, one of the two main types of melanins, which produces orangish and brownish colors," Galvan told the Spanish science portal Plataforma SINC.

The birds of Chernobyl with the most plumage colored by pheomelanin -- orange and brown birds -- were judged to be the "most negatively" affected by Chernobyl's radioactivity, the researchers said.

The researchers theorize that because the pigment consumes glutathione, an antioxidant most susceptible to being diminished by radiation, the birds' capacity to combat the oxidative stress generated by radiation is lessened.

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