2023 journal article
The dogs of Chernobyl: Demographic insights into populations inhabiting the nuclear exclusion zone
SCIENCE ADVANCES, 9(9).
The 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster initiated a series of catastrophic events resulting in long-term and widespread environmental contamination. We characterize the genetic structure of 302 dogs representing three free-roaming dog populations living within the power plant itself, as well as those 15 to 45 kilometers from the disaster site. Genome-wide profiles from Chernobyl, purebred and free-breeding dogs, worldwide reveal that the individuals from the power plant and Chernobyl City are genetically distinct, with the former displaying increased intrapopulation genetic similarity and differentiation. Analysis of shared ancestral genome segments highlights differences in the extent and timing of western breed introgression. Kinship analysis reveals 15 families, with the largest spanning all collection sites within the radioactive exclusion zone, reflecting migration of dogs between the power plant and Chernobyl City. This study presents the first characterization of a domestic species in Chernobyl, establishing their importance for genetic studies into the effects of exposure to long-term, low-dose ionizing radiation.