Radioactive Fish: Scientist Find Traces Of Radioactive Carbon From Nuclear Bomb Tests In Tiny Organisms Deep In The Oceans

Science

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the first evidence of radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests conducted in the early 20th century during and post- World wars, were found in tiny organisms inhabiting the deepest spot in the ocean.

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Updated On:
Photo: US Department of Energy

Amid all the climate change caused due to human activity, scientists have recently discovered that isotopes released by nuclear explosions have reached the bottom of the earth's oceans.

In a recent study published in the American Geophysical Union (AGU), the first evidence of radioactive carbon from nuclear bomb tests conducted in the early 20th century during and post- World wars, were found in tiny organisms inhabiting the deepest spot in the ocean.

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The study has found that organisms at the ocean surface have incorporated this "bomb carbon" into the molecules that make up their bodies since the late 1950s. The study has also revealed that while as of now, crustaceans (aquatic species) are feeding on these nuclear-infused organic matter shed by these organisms, human pollution can quickly enter the food web and make its way to the deep ocean.

Explaining the accelerated pace at which humans can enter this radioactive food web, Ning Wang, a geochemist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Guangzhou, China, and lead author of the new study, has said:

"Although the oceanic circulation takes hundreds of years to bring water containing bomb [carbon] to the deepest trench, the food chain achieves this much faster."

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Amphipod inhabiting the Mariana Trench (Photo: Daiju Azuma)

Giving a stern warning of future human behavior, Weidong Sun, co-author of the study, has said that as there was a very strong interaction between surface and ocean-bottom, human activities can affect biosystems residing as deep as 11,000 meters.

"There's a very strong interaction between the surface and the bottom, in terms of biologic systems, and human activities can affect the biosystems even down to 11,000 meters, so we need to be careful about our future behaviors," said Sun.

The scope of the study is that it would help scientists better understand how creatures have adapted to living in the nutrient-poor environment of the deep ocean, according to the authors. The study has also helped in understanding that the amphipods' large size and long life are likely the byproducts of their evolution to living in the environment of low temperatures, high pressure, and limited food supply, according to AGU.

 

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