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In The 100, TV series: the Grounders have a serious problem with radiation caused mutants. We see that in the mutant child in the Deadlands, where it is stated that it is traditional to leave them out in the elements to "let nature take its course."

Apparently most grounders survive today, because of natural selection in the past meaning that they can normally metabolise it. We also learn that Ark survivors have the same thing, only even more so, due to the stronger solar ratiation.

We never hear of any history of mutations in the Ark people though. Why not?

The only explination I can think of is that all mutation in the Ark caused in-utero fatality. Possibly explained by its greater strength, and by the rationing and oxygen deprivation making sustaining life much harder.

Reasoning with real world science may not get so far, since I am pretty certain radiation doesn't work that way.

  • I don't think this is ever explained in the show, and real-world science explanations are off-topic here, as much as I really want to answer this question... – KutuluMike May 3 '15 at 3:19
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The show has been pretty sloppy with the scientific aspects of how radiation and mutations work, so there's not really any point in trying to explain what's going on using real-world science. (It would be off-topic here anyway.) Mostly they tend to treat radiation damage as a disease you can build immunity to (up to and including the bone marrow transplants "healing" it).

In this sense, the difference between the ground radiation and solar radiation would be in dosage. (This is actually broadly accurate, though the details are a bit off.) The people on the Ark would be receiving doses of high-energy solar radiation constantly, but at such a low level that the damaged cells would be destroyed and replaced before they could cause harm. (If this wasn't true, then astronauts would all come back to Earth teeming with cancer cells.)

The ground radiation, on the other hand, is a significantly higher dose, and the people and wildlife on the surface is literally walking through it all the time. Soon after the nuclear event, there would have been tons of it, and as we've seen, most things that were alive then are dead. What survived were those creatures that the radiation damage to their DNA wasn't lethal. This is another case where the show is broadly correct: major genetic mutations would likely show up in offspring moreso than the adults that were exposed: their bodies are already fully formed, and any deviation in their DNA would, at best, cause cancer, and at worst cause organ failure and death. However, it's possible that a mutated embryo might survive, assuming the mutation was non-lethal.

As time passes the radiation levels are dropping. It's low enough that the Ark and Grounder populations "immunity" is able to cope, though it's obviously still strong enough to kill the Mountain population in minutes. Thus, the immune populations are mostly healthy adults having healthy children, but there's still a chance of radiation damage to the reproductive system leading to a mutated child.

The as-yet-unanswered question is whether the "immunity" the Ark people have will prevent their children from also, occasionally, being mutated. In theory they should have about the same rate of abnormal birth as anyone else on the ground, but obviously it's still to early to know that.

  • Astronauts space suits, ships and stations are shielded. Not much direct exposure. – user16696 May 4 '15 at 19:23
  • @cde I doubt the space stations were intended to be used for as long as they are, given how much disrepair they fell into, nor for as many people at one time. I'm assuming the solar radiation exposure was minimal because it was unintentional. – KutuluMike May 4 '15 at 19:31
  • Shielding is provided by the metal and thick glass in the structure, not any active radiation blocking. That said I was targeting your astronaut statement. – user16696 May 4 '15 at 19:43
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In episode 02x11 "Coup de Grace", Clarke mentions that the inhabitants of the Ark have at least some measure of genetic engineering to help them with the radiation and that's one reason why their marrow was so beneficial to the people of Mt Weather.

  • I was starting to work up a theory that to go with ther superios gene tech, they likely had better natal medicine and could detect and abort mutated feotus. – Lyndon White May 5 '15 at 0:31

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