Frogs Near Chernobyl Have Gotten Darker to Protect Themselves

Medscape Staff

December 21, 2022

The frogs living in the exclusion zone around Chernobyl, Ukraine, where a nuclear accident occurred, have evolved and have become darker as a way of tolerating radiation, according to a study published in the journal Evolutionary Applications.

What to Know

  • The 1986 accident at reactor four of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant generated the largest release of radioactive material in human history, severely affecting the environment and the human population through acute exposure to radiation.

  • More than three decades after the accident, Chernobyl has become one of the largest nature reserves in Europe and provides a refuge to a diverse range of endangered species, including bears, wolves, and lynxes.

  • Radiation can damage the genetic material of living organisms, which can lead to undesirable mutations, but it appears tree frogs living within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone are adapting to life with radiation by evolving in a way that has changed their color from a normal bright green to very dark colors and in some cases even pitch black.

  • The melanin that is responsible for the dark color of many organisms can reduce the negative effects of ultraviolet radiation, making it less likely that individuals exposed to radiation will suffer cell damage and thus increase their survival chances.

  • These dark frogs may help researchers understand the protective role of melanin in environments affected by radioactive contamination. More than ten generations of frogs have passed since the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and these dark frogs are now the dominant type for the species within the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.

This is a summary of the article, "Ionizing radiation and melanism in Chornobyl tree frogs," published in Evolutionary Applications on August 29, 2022. The full article can be found on

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