Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


A round-up of the latest science and news from Australasia.

Gender Behaviours Inherited from Social Environment

The different ways men and women behave can be inherited from our social environment – not just from genes. In a report in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Prof Cordelia Fine of The University of Melbourne and colleagues showed how interactions between the genetic and hormonal components of sex create variability between individuals while environmental factors supply the stable conditions needed for the reproduction of the trait in each generation.

Solar Paint Produces Hydrogen Fuel

Researchers at RMIT have developed a solar paint that can absorb water vapour and split it to generate hydrogen – the cleanest source of energy.

The paint contains a newly developed compound that acts like the silica gel found in sachets that absorb moisture to keep food, medicines and electronics fresh and dry.

But unlike silica gel, synthetic molybdenum-sulphide also acts as a semiconductor and catalyses the splitting of water atoms into hydrogen and oxygen.

Largest Undersea Landslide Revealed on the Great Barrier Reef

Scientists have discovered the remnants of a massive undersea landslide on the Great Barrier Reef, approximately 30 times the volume of Uluru.

The remains of the slip, known as the Gloria Knolls Slide, were discovered 75 km off the Queensland coast near Innisfail. “This is all that remains after a massive collapse of sediment of about 32 cubic kilometres’ volume more than 300,000 years ago,” said Dr Robin Beaman of James Cook University.

DNA Reveals Diversity of Ancient Australians

The ancestors of Aboriginal Australians and Papua New Guineans diverged from Eurasian populations between 51,000 and 72,000 years ago, according to a new DNA analysis of 83 Indigenous Australians. The finding supports the idea that humans spread out of Africa in a single event.

The study, published in Nature (, is the first extensive investigation of DNA diversity in Aboriginal Australians. Prior to this study, only three Aboriginal Australians had their full DNA sequences described.

Faulty Gene Linked to Depression and Cardiovascular Disease

Researchers may have discovered a new target in the fight against depression: a faulty gene that is linked to cardiovascular and metabolic conditions.

The findings – published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews ( – have supported a number of theories about the underlying genetic causes of depression, and have highlighted one gene that until now has gone under the radar in relation to mood disorders.

Unhappiness Has No Effect on Mortality

A study of a million women in the UK has concluded that the widespread belief that unhappiness and stress directly cause ill health comes from studies that confused cause and effect.

Life-threatening poor health can cause unhappiness, and for this reason unhappiness is associated with increased mortality. In addition, smokers tend to be unhappier than non-smokers. However, after taking into account previous ill health, smoking and other lifestyle and socio-economic factors, the study found that unhappiness itself was no longer associated with increased mortality.

High Cancer Rates in Indigenous People of High-Income Countries

Indigenous people in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have high rates of preventable cancers, including lung and cervical cancer, according to research published in The Lancet Oncology.

The most commonly occurring cancers among indigenous men, irrespective of region, were lung, prostate and colorectal cancer. Among indigenous women, breast cancer was the most frequent cancer, followed by lung and colorectal cancer.

Why Cocky Guys Get the Girl

Overconfidence may help people win romantic partners, according to research published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

Doctoral student Sean Murphy and Prof Bill von Hippel of The University of Queensland conducted a series of online experiments with more than 3000 male and female participants.

Sexual Activity May Influence Endometriosis

Contact with seminal fluid has been associated with endometriosis by researchers at the University of Adelaide.

“In laboratory studies, our research found that seminal fluid (a major component of semen) enhances the survival and growth of endometriosis lesions,” says Dr Jonathan McGuane, who was co-lead author of the research published in The American Journal of Pathology.

“Endometriosis, when tissue that normally grows inside a women’s uterus grows outside the uterus, affects one in ten

Epigenetic Signatures Predict Breast Cancer Aggression

Newly identified epigenetic signatures could help clinicians tell the difference between highly aggressive and more benign forms of triple-negative breast cancer.

A Nature Communications study comparing how DNA is methylated in breast cancer and healthy cells found “distinct methylation patterns” in the primary biopsy breast cancer cells that indicated better or worse prognosis.