So, I'm coming up with a world in which, after a nuclear war in Africa, there is a bunker in the country of Chad. The main characters leave the bunker as the radioactivity has mostly worn off (after 100-something years), annd I want them to discover a harsh, warped environment, along with strange, terrifying creatures that inhabit it. What would be some possible mutations caused by radioactivity?

While I would accept some broad answers, I'm looking for strange, fear-inspiring mutations in particular; I'd like some mutation examples in mammals, birds, reptiles, and plantlife, especially mutations that don't debilitate the organism, but cause a horrific appearance or have a sinister purpose.

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    $\begingroup$ The sinister purpose is in the mind of the observer. A howl has nothing more sinister than a koala, apart silly superstitions $\endgroup$
    – L.Dutch
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:32
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch-ReinstateMonica - I find the howl sinister because I did not realize they were physical entities, and now I am certain there is one under my porch. I am listening carefully... $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:35
  • $\begingroup$ A sinister purpose, here means for the purpose to prey upon other organisms or intimidate prey or others of its species. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:38
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    $\begingroup$ Is this pure fantasy / horror, or is it intended to be realistic? Because if it's intended to be realistic then sorry, nope, nothing to see. The USA detonated dozens and dozens of nuclear devices in Nevada, and as far as I know there was zero effect on the wildlife. Overall, the USA, the USSR and France detonated hundreds of nuclear devices worldwide and we haven't seen any mutations. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 18:43
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    $\begingroup$ Not a lot of terrifying mutations in chernobyl, either. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 27, 2021 at 20:00

1 Answer 1


Make your scary stuff and then work backwards.

Dutch is right. For example, some people might find skinny hippos running all over the place to be scary because hippos are supposed to be fat and in the water. Is an aquatic giraffe scary? How about a 2000 lb cheetah that is not fast? No? OK: predatory oxpeckers that attack in a gang! Is that a little bit spooky?

Start with your scary then justify it with mutations. Or bioweapons? GMO freaks bred as status pets for Nigerian oil oligarchs? Or they already had the triffids in oil farms and then they got loose? Because the fact of the matter is that 100 years is not enough time for random evolution to radically change a large vertebrate species, radiation boost to mutations notwithstanding.

Don't get bummed though! Low scifi does lots of things that don't hold up to hard scrutiny and I am thinking of many, many scifi scenarios from The Time Machine to Long Afternoon of Earth to Fallout, all of which featuring creatures which have mutated to sinister and freaky and awesome new forms. Might I suggest (for variety) also the hottie new forms, Weena of the Eloi being a fine example of easy-on-the-eye mutantry? The intention is for the reader or player to marvel at the freaky and awesome, not get all egghead about radiation mechanisms and evolution time.

Your trick is not figuring out realistic genetics (ho hum) but figuring out scary and sinister in a new and engaging way.


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