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Now, this may seem similar to another question you may have seen on this website, where they ask whether after a nuclear apocalypse, if it is possible for mutants to evolve. However, this is a bit different. Currently I'm working on a planet, and one of the many areas is what I call the Lavender Tropics. The trees there exhibit a strange behavior in that it extracts various minerals from the ground in the process of extracting its nutrients, and as a result, it evolved to expel these nutrients in large deposits inside of closed blooms, and at night, these blooms open and the deposit falls out. There is a massive amount of plutonium-239 deposit below the surface (I know plutonium-239 has a half life of 24,100 years, and it would have decayed a long time ago when the planet was created, but I'm working on a constant source supplying plutonium.) My question is, what will happen to the wildlife when there are massive lumps of plutonium scattered about? There are three explanations: number one, the creatures all get cancer and die; number two, the creatures evolve somewhat normally, except the process is supercharged; and number three, the creatures become impractical, lopsided monstrosities, which is what I want, because it makes good gameplay.

Edit: In response to the answers that I have gotten, I need to clear up a few things. Number one, pretty much the entire ecosystem is made up of tiny arachnids and insects, so I was counting on one of the effects being gigantism. Number two, the player is a robot, so plutonium salve is useless, although if I use the lump fly idea, maybe it can be used to tame the aggravated creature. Number three, I have decided that the source of the plutonium is a malfunctioning nuclear reactor complex deep beneath the surface. And number four, I was not aware that the radiation of plutonium-239 is in the form of alpha rays, so I may need to change the element.

Update: I just started my chatroom called The Council Of Devourers, for discussing the creation of my universe.

Update 2: The Council of Devourers is closed now. No further discussion shall occur.

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    $\begingroup$ You have large lumps of Pu-239 lying around on the surface? At some point, a flood or something will bring enough of it together to form a critical mass, then K-fizzle you have a very inefficient nuclear bomb almost exploding. And everything around it gets contaminated by real nasty fissile products. p.s. Let's ignore just how amazingly toxic the element itself is, both chemically and radiologically. What is the name of this planet, "oh dear", or "oops"? $\endgroup$
    – PcMan
    Mar 9, 2021 at 20:47
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    $\begingroup$ This comment is lovely, and the answer I have is that the lavender tropics is a very small area of the planet, and it is fact mostly mountainous. Also, the name is Montanum-2. $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 21:07
  • $\begingroup$ Recreate? .. you think they existed before? .. you meant to say create Shirley. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Mar 10, 2021 at 11:52
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore They mean "recreate" in the sense of "replicate", i.e. replicating the sorts mutants you'd see in a game like Fallout. $\endgroup$
    – F1Krazy
    Mar 10, 2021 at 14:31

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Another route to lumpy beasts?

Here is the thing about radiation. If you radiate a bunch of creatures in the short term they could get cancers and get lumpy from them and stumble about in a sickly aggrieved manner. Most of those creatures will die shortly. The ones that survive do because they can still manage to reproduce. As time passes, the creatures which can survive and reproduce in this place will be those that are less affected, and less pathetically lumpy and impractical.


But I sympathize with your desire for impractical lopsided beasts which rush in an enraged manner to do battle regardless of their odds. Might I humbly suggest these beasts be ordinary beasts of various sorts that are infected. There could be a fly of some sort that lays an egg on the creature and the resulting larva-filled growths swell producing desired lumps. Perhaps these creature produce gall-like tumor growths on your animals from which eventually flies will emerge. These creatures are not zombified, just lumpy and sick and possibly itchy which are the things you want, I believe.

Also the flies will certainly land on your players while they sleep. Your players too will develop lumps. Here is where the plutonium comes in handy - a salve made from plutonium will deliver radiation to the tumorous growths, shrinking them down and killing the worm inside.

I like your trees a lot by the way. There are real trees that do this with nickel, which might be where you got the idea.

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A continuous exposure to radiation will simply increase the mutation rate in the exposed species. Some, if not most, of the mutants will be damaged by such mutations but some might get an advantage from them.

This was an approach followed some decades ago to develop new vegetable species, when genetic engineering was yet to come.

Incidentally, we are also constantly exposed to a certain amount of background radiation.

I remember I have already posted one answer explaining the details of the method, but I am not being able to find it at the moment. I will try a more thorough search tomorrow.

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    $\begingroup$ "Atomic gardening" is the phrase to search for. (Irradiate a bunch of saplings/seeds/etc, then hope something gets something useful.) This is a different thing from increased low-level exposure. I bet increased low-level exposure eventually just results in better resistance to radiation. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2021 at 4:25
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Pu-239 is quite radioactive, but in and of itself is not as hazardous as other radioactive elements. This is because Pu-239 almost always decays via helium emission (alpha decay). Alpha radiation is easy to shield against, for example a piece of paper or skin are good shielding agents. Large quantities of Pu-239 would only be hazardous to life if contaminated a water supply. Alpha particles are hazardous within soft tissue, particularly to the nucleic acids and are very dangerous if inhaled. Fortunately, plutonium is unlikely to be in the air since it is (particularly) heavy metal.

The issue with this scenario is that Pu-239 almost exclusively arises in breeder reactors when U-238 is excited (via neutron capture) and decays via beta emission with an end result of Pu-239. It is very difficult to get pure samples of Pu-239, and most samples will contain large amounts of Uranium. Since the products and process of producing Pu-239 produce large quantities of beta emitters, the hazards of Pu-239 are usually far outweighed by the surrounding radioactive materials.

If you can contrive a reason by which large quantities of Pu-239 (and no accompanying radioactive isotopes) are present near the surface, mutation should be minimal and concentrated around contaminated water reservoirs. For example, in humans, beta emitters that play biological roles tend to be the radioactive isotopes which create long term problems (strontium and iodine for example).

Evolution generally constrains the phenotype through fitness to survive. While obvious mutations can and do occur from radiation damage to nucleic acids, this constraint would typically not benefit the creature in question and overwhelmingly result in a decrease in its chances of passing on genes. It has been well documented (near Chernobyl for instance) of animals which are horribly mutated (and thus look strange) but I am not aware of any instance where this increased the animals fitness to survive.

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  • $\begingroup$ So you're saying it is only a problem for anything that drinks the water, or eats anything that lives in the water, or eats the fruit or leaves of planets that grow around the water. Oh, and in the summer time when the mud dries up and movement kicks up dust, its a problem for anything that breathes it, too. And the wrong kind of land erosion geography might set up the conditions for a natural nuclear reactor... $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 21:05
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Of course concentration and geology are key which the question really doesn't give precise indication. There are places on Earth with (relatively) high concentrations of alpha emitting Uranium in which the rocks, with abundant ore containing fractions of percent of Uranium oxides but there is not much hazard to life. The question is about underground Plutonium, which like Uranium is soluble in water. $\endgroup$
    – user110866
    Mar 9, 2021 at 21:15
  • $\begingroup$ Note that uranium is substantially less radioactive than plutonium, making it less hazardous to ingest or inhale. $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 21:18
  • $\begingroup$ Maybe springs and ponds that happen to have plutonium deposits nearby or inside are spawning areas for mutants? $\endgroup$ Mar 9, 2021 at 21:26
  • $\begingroup$ @StarfishPrime Of course Plutonium is more radioactive than Uranium in that a given sample will emit more alpha particles over a given time interval. My point being that concentration and exposure are key. I'd supply more rigorous analysis but this isn't really realistic for two reasons. Without knowing the exact plutonium concentrations and exact minerals it is contained in, only general speculations can be made. Additionally, plutonium is never found isolated in real life (always combined with much larger concentrations of Uranium) which I tried to explain in my answer. $\endgroup$
    – user110866
    Mar 9, 2021 at 22:15

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