Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


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

Genetic Bottlenecks as Gloomy Octopus Drifts South

A species of octopus previously confined to eastern Australian waters is extending its range south, riding a new wave of warm water as ocean currents change. In a study published in Scientific Reports (, researchers have examined the genetic processes associated with the gloomy octopus’ range shift.

Which Witchetty Grubs Make Good Grub?

A new classification of witchetty grubs in Australia will help maintain traditional knowledge about edible insects, help tourists avoid eating poisonous species, and may help food security.

Conrad Bilney, a PhD candidate at La Trobe University’s Department of Ecology, Environment and Evolution, said that eating insects is widespread internationally but isn’t common in Australia beyond Indigenous communities. Other uses for edible insects include additives in products such as baking ingredients, fishing bait, feed for livestock, and as a source of high-protein fish food.

Stellar Triplet Weakens Rival Relativity Theories

Astronomers observing the complicated orbital dance of three compact stars have concluded that Einstein’s theory of general relativity still can’t be proven wrong.

Mutation Challenges Theories on Evolution and High-Carb Diets

A single mitochondrial DNA mutation that is common in animals, including humans, could help to tailor diets that combat obesity and other health problems associated with a carbohydrate-rich diet, according to the authors of a study published in PLoS Genetics (

A dog's colour could impact longevity, increase health problems

New research led by the University of Sydney has revealed the life expectancy of chocolate Labradors is significantly lower than their black and yellow counterparts.

The study of more than 33,000 United Kingdom-based Labrador retrievers of all colours shows chocolate Labradors also have a higher incidence of ear infections and skin disease. Its findings were published in the open access journal Canine Genetics and Epidemiology today.

Asteroid Strikes Created Earth’s Oldest Surviving Rocks

Research led by Curtin University researchers has concluded that the Earth’s oldest-known evolved rocks formed four billion years ago when asteroids slammed into the Earth’s crust, causing it to melt.

The research, published in Nature Geoscience (, found that the Earth’s oldest granitic rocks, which form part of the Acasta Gneiss Complex in north-west Canada, have compositions that are distinct from those typical of Earth’s ancient continental crust. These differences suggest that they formed through a different process.

Doomed Star Could Fire Milky Way’s First Gamma-Ray Burst

Astronomers at the Sydney Institute for Astronomy have found a star system about 8000 light years from Earth that is the first known candidate in the Milky Way to produce a dangerous gamma-ray burst when it explodes and dies.

The system comprises a pair of scorchingly luminous Wolf-Rayet stars in the southern constellation of Norma, just beneath Scorpio’s tail. One star is on the brink of a massive supernova explosion.

The findings, published in Nature Astronomy (, are controversial as no gamma-ray burst has ever been detected within the Milky Way.

Microwave Chemistry Zaps Solar Cells

A microwave experiment with phosphorus has opened the way to more affordable and effective super-thin solar cells.

Hallucinations Associated with Brain Hyperactivity in People with Age-Related Blindness

New research from The University of Queensland has revealed that visual hallucinations in people with macular degeneration are associated with abnormally heightened activity in the visual cortex of the brain. The findings, published in Current Biology (, could improve the diagnosis of such hallucinations.

FM Radio Radar Reveals Defence Threats in Space

Astronomers at the Curtin University node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR) have teamed up with Adelaide company Silentium Defence to develop a passive radar for the surveillance of objects in space.