Dogs Living Near Chernobyl Are Now Genetically Different From Other Dogs In The World

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By Mayukh Saha / Truth Theory

It should come as no surprise to anyone that the dogs living near Chornobyl can have a different genetic makeup than other dogs around the world. And this has been confirmed by recent research that was conducted on the hundreds of dogs that free-wheel the area around the Chornobyl nuclear power plant. After the nuclear disaster took place on the 26th of April, 1986 at Chornobyl, the government had mandated that 120,000 people who lived in the area and the nearby city of Pripyat would have to evacuate and abandon their homes. This definitely also involved the pet dogs of the families- of whom many couldn’t be evacuated. So they have somehow managed to create a significant population of their own as they roam around in the irradiated land that accompanies the decaying power unit. 

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Dogs Living Near Chornobyl Have A Different Genetic Makeup Than Normal Dogs

The new study focused on scientists looking for a deeper understanding of the genetic makeup of the dogs living near Chornobyl, and the effects of constant radiation on their bodies. This research was made possible with the help of blood samples that were taken from such dogs between 2017 and 2019. The scientists managed to analyze the DNA of 302 dogs from the populations that resided around the power plant- as well as 15 to 45 kilometers from the disaster site. Interestingly, even a cursory view of their DNA would be able to differentiate between these dogs, and the dogs living elsewhere. The researchers have the notion that the ionizing radiation they have been exposed to for generations on end may be the main factor behind the difference. 

The new research also found out that the population had 15 different complex familial units- which were quite unique when compared with the other dog communities around the world. It was also made clear that the dogs roamed about in apparent freedom, and bred freely with one another. The lead study author and geneticist of this study conducted at the NIH’s National Human Genome Research Institute, Elaine Ostrander, went on to state that the most remarkable discovery from the entire study was that the identification between the dogs could be made quite cleanly with a simple look at their DNA profiles.

It also spoke volumes about the resilience that these dogs had, as they lived for decades around spent fuel rods, and their descendants are still alive and kicking to this day. One could also make a connection between the dogs of 2023 with the dogs of 1986, as most of them are likely the successors of the pets abandoned earlier. The DNA of the abandoned dogs lay quite clear on the new dogs that roam the area. 

Further Research Could Reveal Intricacies In The DNA Of These Dogs

According to the latest count, close to 800 semi-feral dogs live near Chornobyl, which also includes the extremely contaminated area- the Chornobyl New Safe Confinement Structure. The hounds are semi-feral, because they are routinely fed by the researchers and the workers, and they also have some run-ins with other individuals. The list includes plenty of vets who visit the area and vaccinate the dogs whilst also treating them for whatever ailments they might have. Since it has been made clear that scientists can reliably differentiate between the genetic makeup of the dogs living near Chornobyl, scientists are now trying to see if these genetic anomalies have a major impact on their appearance, health, and their behavior.

It could also highlight how the genetic mutations in these dogs allowed them to survive in the harsh nuclear winter at this location. Ostrander hopes that they would find enough variants of the DNA that they have acquired through 15 generations of dogs- which would answer a lot of questions as to the chances of survival at the highest of radiation exposures versus the lowest radiating environment. 

Although the research on the dogs living near Chornobyl is still in a very fledgling state scientists are delighted because it shows how super-detailed analysis can now be carried out on even a rag-tag gang of stray dogs.


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