DNA of Chernobyl Dogs Surprises Scientists, Study Shows

Mar 8, 2023

In 1986, the world experienced its worst disaster in the generation of nuclear power for civilian use. A reactor at the nuclear plant in Chernobyl, Ukraine, exploded. As a result, a cloud of toxic radiation flew into the sky. Hundreds of thousands of people had to leave the area. 

Many of those fleeing left behind their belongings. That included their pets. Officials feared the animals might spread disease. They tried to remove the animals. But many pet dogs survived. Some even became friends with the cleanup workers. They fed the dogs.

Now, scientists are studying the modern generation of those dogs. Thousands of them roam the site and city of Chernobyl. The area is called the exclusion zone. It's still considered toxic. Researchers have found the genetic makeup of today’s Chernobyl dogs is unique. Their genes are much different from other dogs. Scientists are puzzled. They've been unable to explain how these differences happened or what they mean. The scientists also don't know why the radiation didn’t kill all the original dogs. So, they're studying the dogs' DNA.

The US, Ukraine, and Poland are working together to study the dog DNA. Scientists recently published the results of their work. The research is just the beginning. Scientists will keep looking into what caused the dogs' genes to mutate. Even within the local dog populations, DNA can differ by geography. City dogs showed different mutations than canines nearer to the plant, scientists found.

A nonprofit based in the US called the Clean Futures Fund is helping by keeping the dogs alive. In 2017, the nonprofit opened veterinary clinics in the area. The clinics care for the animals. They also collect the blood samples that the scientists use.  

Photo by Viktor Hesse courtesy of Unsplash. 

Words and phrases such as “In 1986” and “Now” identify to the reader that the information in the story is organized _______. (Common Core RI.5.5; RI.6.5)
a. in chronological order
b. by geographical area
c. in order of importance
d. according to important definitions
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