No, this is not a “nuclear rabbit”

June 9th, 2011
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At least no more so than any other rabbit. Yes, it is made up of atoms, which include a nucleus. Yes, it does get its energy indirectly from the sun, which is nuclear. Yes, the elements that compose it were created in nuclear reactions in ancient stars. Yes, it is radioactive, due to potassium-40 and carbon-14.
(Direct link for those who can’t view embedded videos)



But other than that, there’s nothing “nuclear” about this rabbit.

A media frenzy followed the posting of the above video which was accompanied with the following description (translated to English):

After the incident, while the government was reporting there were no immediate health effects and evacuation was unnecessary, those of us in Namie weren’t being given any information about what was going on.

I thought I was going to be silenced in some cover-up between the national and prefectural governments. I was working outside at home when the #3 reactor exploded and my face and throat were scalded. I thought I was going to die at any moment.

I continued to feed my rabbits the grass from outside of my house, and sometime after the rabbit with no ears was born. It was the first deformity I have ever seen with my rabbits. Rabbits reproduce faster than humans, and so perhaps this is a vision of the children that will be born after this incident.

Why this doesn’t actually mean anything:

  • The total dose level in the area around Fukushima is low.  While there have been some spikes in the radiation levels, it’s not high enough that a major increase in mutations would be expected.  When past incidents (such as Chernobyl, weapons tests and other events) have lead to increased radiation exposure of local animal populations, such obviously manifested mutations were not frequently observed. The actual rabbit in question was born more than 30 km from the Fukushima plant, where radiation levels have barely risen at all.
  • Although mutations can result in obvious physical changes to an organism’s offspring, it’s rare. Most mutations either produce no noticeable change or alter the way a protein is synthesized or some other biochemical process that is not readily observable in the physical characteristics of an organism. Seeing an organism with one single mutation that is shown in such an obvious way without interfering with other development of the organism is very unusual – although not entirely impossible.
  • Even if this is a mutation, it is not necessarily related to radiation from Fukushima.   Mutations happen all the time and in a large enough population they will be observed every once in a while.
  • Rabbits without ears or with very small external ears are not unknown. They’ve been seen many times before.  In the UK, in the United States,  Singapore and elsewhere.  It appears to be a relatively common birth defect in rabbits which is seen from time to time in any rabbit population.  Lack of developed ears is more likely to be a developmental issue than a genetic one.
  • While there are some rabbits that are confirmed to have been born ear-less, there’s no proof that this one was.  Rabbit breeders report it is fairly common for rabbits to lose their ears due to over-grooming by the mother shortly after birth.  That may well be what happened to this rabbit, or it may have lost its ears by some other means.

So what we have is a rabbit that does not have ears, but probably was born with ears. If it was born without ears (which it probably wasn’t), it was probably the result of a developmental fluke and not a mutation. If it was born without ears (which it probably wasn’t) and it was the result of a mutation (which it probably wasn’t) then it probably wasn’t related to the Fukushima nuclear power plant.

Note you have to get pretty deep into “probably wasn’t” before it is possible to associate this rabbit with the incidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.


This entry was posted on Thursday, June 9th, 2011 at 11:38 am and is filed under Bad Science, Enviornment, media, Nuclear. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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23 Responses to “No, this is not a “nuclear rabbit””

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    Yes this made me go ‘Oh God’ when I first saw it too. At least they haven’t been showing kids with congenital defects and blaming it on the Fukushima plant event…yet.


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  2. 2
    BMS Says:

    Rabbits reproduce faster than humans, and so perhaps this is a vision of the children that will be born after this incident.

    I believe this person could be right. It is quite plausible — in fact, rather likely — that the children that will be born after this incident will lack rabbit ears.


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  3. 3
    Mark Says:

    The whole story is complete rubbish. Whatever side of the fence you are on, (anti-nuclear / pro nuclear), I do not believe that any sensible person believe that this is related to ionising radiation exposure. This is in the similar fashion to reports of ‘workers working with lethal levels of radiation’.


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  4. 4
    Juums Says:

    Be vewy, vewy quiet: I’m hunting nucwear wabbits. And the nucwear wessels they travel on.

    Huhuhuhuhuhuh.


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  5. 5
    Joffan Says:

    Namie was recommended to evacuate on 12 March – it is (mostly) less than 10km from Fukushima Daiichi – two days before the reactor #3 explosion. So there is a whiff of fiction with this story. I would still be surprised, even if all else were true, if this earless rabbit was anything to do with radiation.

    From your link…

    When accused of posting the video to intentionally cause panic, the user pointed out: “Please don’t get me wrong; I have not explicitly stated that this is a result of the radiation.”

    Feeble and dishonest evasion, when read in conjunction with “perhaps this is a vision of the children that will be born after this incident”.


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  6. 6
    Anon Says:

            DV82XL said:

    Yes this made me go ‘Oh God’ when I first saw it too. At least they haven’t been showing kids with congenital defects and blaming it on the Fukushima plant event…yet.

    Just give it a few years and the old photos they used for Chernobyl and the various uses of Depleted Uranium will show up again.

    When that happens we’ll just need to be ready to call them on it.

            Mark said:

    The whole story is complete rubbish. Whatever side of the fence you are on, (anti-nuclear / pro nuclear), I do not believe that any sensible person believe that this is related to ionising radiation exposure. This is in the similar fashion to reports of ‘workers working with lethal levels of radiation’.

    I hope you’re not implying that anti-nuclear activists are sensible.


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  7. 7
    Amoeba Says:

    “…the elements that compose it were created in nuclear reactions in ancient stars.” – Isn’t that true of all rabbits? And probably everything else?

    With the possible exception of some H and some He left over from the big bang, IIRC aren’t all existing naturally occurring stable* elements thought to have been created in stellar cores or stellar explosions?

    Notes
    *Excludes daughter products of decay series.
    Plus anything else I haven’t thought of or possibly forgot before I pressed the idiot button of no-return.
    —–
    BTW Cute video. If anyone wants to see a not very scary but very funny British rabbit video, try: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcxKIJTb3Hg


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  8. 8
    Anon Says:

            Amoeba said:

    With the possible exception of some H and some He left over from the big bang, IIRC aren’t all existing naturally occurring stable* elements thought to have been created in stellar cores or stellar explosions?

    Quite a bit of Li and Be from the Big Bang (i.e. most of it).

            Amoeba said:

    Notes
    *Excludes daughter products of decay series.
    Plus anything else I haven’t thought of or possibly forgot before I pressed the idiot button of no-return.

    Of course the parent isotopes came from a star so even decay products can be quite correctly said to be from supernovae.


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  9. 9
    drbuzz0 Says:

            Amoeba said:

    “…the elements that compose it were created in nuclear reactions in ancient stars.” – Isn’t that true of all rabbits? And probably everything else?

    Yes, hence I said it is nuclear but “no more so than any other rabbit”

            Amoeba said:

    With the possible exception of some H and some He left over from the big bang, IIRC aren’t all existing naturally occurring stable* elements thought to have been created in stellar cores or stellar explosions?

    You’re reading a little too much into this. Yeah, I could have said “most of the atoms” or “the atoms with more than a few AMU’s of mass” I didn’t see the point.


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  10. 10
    Ray1952 Says:

    No doubt in the years to come there will be some birth defects in the area, as there always are a few, given a large enough population. There will always be cases of cleft lip and pallet, hydrocephalus, spina bifida. As these have always occurred and will continue to, it is not any sign of radiation problems. None the less, I fully expect that every time a birth occurs in that region with one of these common problems, it will be blamed on Fukushima and graphic, almost pornographic pictures will be published.


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  11. 11
    atomikrabbit Says:

    I thought my (large hare-y) ears were burning!


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  12. 12
    atomikrabbit Says:

    BTW Cute video. If anyone wants to see a not very scary but very funny British rabbit video, try: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcxKIJTb3Hg

    You have stumbled upon a home video (it was 8mm back then) of my Celtic ancestor. He got that way from unusually potent Uranium deposits found in the Cave of Cairn Bannor – a phenomenon now identified as Camelotean Hormesis. Unfortunately it also made him a little bipolar.


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  13. 13
    Nick P. Says:

    Aw man, I haven’t eaten rabbit for so long.

    This is making rabbit sound really, really good right now.


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  14. 14
    Nezuji Says:

    Well, Nick P., this one won’t hear you coming.


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  15. 15
    Matte Says:

    Hear-hear…


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  16. 16
    magne Says:

            BMS said:

    Rabbits reproduce faster than humans, and so perhaps this is a vision of the children that will be born after this incident.

    I believe this person could be right. It is quite plausible — in fact, rather likely — that the children that will be born after this incident will lack rabbit ears.

    Think this is the best comment I have seen in years.


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  17. 17
    I'mnotreallyhere Says:

    This thread has been officially won by BMS.

    Runner up : Juums

    Honorary mention : atomikrabbit, Nezuji, matte

    People’s choice award : Anon, for pointing out the flaw in Mark’s argument.

    As always, a convenient coincidence rears its head and every journalist on the planet gets a hard-on. Its why I’m starting to feel that newspapers should be peer-reviewed to reduce the amount of thin, substance-deficient reporting.


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  18. 18
    Anon Says:

    This thread has been officially won by BMS.

    Runner up : Juums

    Honorary mention : atomikrabbit, Nezuji, matte

    People’s choice award : Anon, for pointing out the flaw in Mark’s argument.

            I’mnotreallyhere said:

    As always, a convenient coincidence rears its head and every journalist on the planet gets a hard-on. Its why I’m starting to feel that newspapers should be peer-reviewed to reduce the amount of thin, substance-deficient reporting.

    You just won best suggestion of the thread.

    Of course we’d have to figure who should be doing the peer review, if other journalists do it it might not provide much improvement.


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  19. 19
    Anon Says:

    Damn it the preview function which used to exist is needed.


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  20. 20
    Scoob Says:

    Hey, you pompous know-it-alls, are you still sticking to your story that “The total dose level in the area around Fukushima is low”?


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  21. 21
    Anon Says:

            Scoob said:

    Hey, you pompous know-it-alls, are you still sticking to your story that “The total dose level in the area around Fukushima is low”?

    Interesting the inability to take humour, typical reaction of a zealot.


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  22. 22
    Hose Carlos Says:

    Even if this is a mutation, it is not necessarily related to radiation from Fukushima.�� Mutations happen all the time and in a large enough population they will be observed every once in a while.bop nu


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  23. 23
    Terry Says:

    Although mutations can result in obvious physical changes to an organism’s offspring, it’s rare. Most mutations either produce no noticeable change or alter the way a protein is synthesized or some other biochemical process that is not readily observable in the physical characteristics of an organism. Seeing an organism with one single mutation that is shown in such an obvious way without interfering with other development of the organism is very unusual – although not entirely impossible. bop nu


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