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

Gannets Divorce for Real Estate

By Stephen Luntz

Australasian gannets prefer to stay in long-term “marriages” to increase their chance of breeding success. However, a gannet will “divorce” in favour of another mate if it’s the only way to hold onto a prime bit of land.

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Quantum Dots Controlled

By Stephen Luntz

Developments in the production of magnetic quantum dots could increase the speed and power of computers.

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Devil in the Genetic Detail

By Stephen Luntz

Genetic diversity may save the Tasmanian devil in the wild, with increasing evidence that a genetically distinct population in the north-west of the island may have natural immunity to the facial tumour disease that is ravaging its cousins.

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The Taste of Fat

By Stephen Luntz

Australian and New Zealand researchers have challenged the traditional belief that humans can only detect five tastes. Their claimed sixth taste – fat – could hold the key to why some people have been able to resist the tide of obesity.

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Alien Clusters Infiltrate Galaxy

By Stephen Luntz

The Milky Way is filled with stars that arrived as part of captured formations. Now an Australian/Canadian study has concluded that one-quarter of the globular clusters that ring the galaxy come from dwarf galaxies. Globular clusters are spherical islands of stars, usually a few hundred thousand strong, sitting offshore of galaxies like pilot fish around sharks.

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Hormone Hinders Memory

By Stephen Luntz

Luteinising hormone (LH), which plays a role in regulating testosterone, has a strong correlation with poor memories in older men.

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Volcanoes Boost Carbon Storage

By Stephen Luntz

Undersea volcanoes release iron, some of which eventually finds its way to the surface of the Southern Ocean where it boosts phytoplankton growth and the absorption of carbon dioxide.

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Butterfly Behaviour Link to Warming

image of butterfly

The earlier emergence of common brown butterflies around Melbourne has been linked to global warming. Photo: Paul Sunnucks

By Stephen Luntz

For the first time a paper has shown causal links between human changes to global temperatures and species behavioural change, in this case the early emergence of butterflies.

For the first time a paper has shown causal links between human changes to global temperatures and species behavioural change, in this case the early emergence of butterflies.

The common brown butterfly (Heteronmympha merope) is an important part of the Melbourne ecosystem. Its emergence was a defining feature of the local Aboriginal calendar, and detailed records have been kept at the Melbourne Museum for many years.

Omega-3 Controls Zinc In Brain

By Stephen Luntz

Light has been shed on one mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids benefit the brain, but the research also indicates how much we still have to learn about the role of diet on brain health.

Light has been shed on one mechanism by which omega-3 fatty acids benefit the brain, but the research also indicates how much we still have to learn about the role of diet on brain health.

“Previous research has suggested that there is a link between low levels in the brain of the omega-3 fatty acid DHA –docosahexaenoic acid to give it its full name – and Alzheimer’s disease,” says Prof Leigh Ackland of Deakin Biomolecular Sciences. “Also, the incidence of neuro-degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s appears to be reduced in populations with a high omega-3 fatty acid diet.”

Early Cannabis Dangers Quantified

Girl being offered marijuana

Early Cannabis Dangers Quantified: iStockphoto

By Stephen Luntz

A study at the Queensland Brain Institute has confirmed the dangers of early cannabis use, revealing that users who start by the time they are 15 years old are three times as likely as non-users to experience psychosis by the age of 21.

A study at the Queensland Brain Institute has confirmed the dangers of early cannabis use, revealing that users who start by the time they are 15 years old are three times as likely as non-users to experience psychosis by the age of 21.

While the association of schizophrenia and cannabis use is well-known, it has not been easy to prove that the drug consumption is a cause of mental illness rather than a form of self-medication.