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Insect diversity has also fallen, and previously, the same researchers found a way to predict which species there are likely to be most severely damaged by radioactive contamination, by evaluating how often they renew parts of their DNA. In their latest study, the scientists used mist nets to collect birds from eight woodland sites around Chernobyl, which have seen a decline in the numbers of larger animals and small invertebrates living within.
High levels of background radiation cause animals oxidative stress, where they have to use antioxidants in their bodies to fight its ill effects. That leaves animals exposed to radiation severely depleted of antioxidants, and the reduced brain size may be a result of this depletion.