Frogs evolved black skin to adapt to radiation in Chernobyl

Researchers Pablo Burraco and Germán Orizaola went to Chernobyl in 2016 and found Eastern tree frogs with an "unusual black tint." This species is typically bright green. They learned that the frogs in the area evolved "pitch black skin" to protect themselves against ionizing radiation in the area.


The results of our study suggest that Chernobyl frogs could have undergone a process of rapid evolution in response to radiation. In this scenario, those frogs with darker coloration at the time of the accident, which normally represent a minority in their populations, would have been favored by the protective action of melanin.

The dark frogs would have survived the radiation better and reproduced more successfully. More than ten generations of frogs have passed since the accident and a classic, although very fast, process of natural selection may explain why these dark frogs are now the dominant type for the species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

Colouring gradient of the Eastern St. Anthony's frog (Hyla orientalis) in northern Ukraine. Credit: Germán Orizaola/Pablo Burraco, CC BY-SA