Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Browse

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

Foetal Motor Neuron Imbalance Hard-Wires Later Problems

The discovery that motor neuron connections are refined in the weeks before and just after birth, and are crucial for normal development later, could lead to a better understanding of developmental disorders such as autism and epilepsy.

A/Profs Peter Noakes and Mark Bellingham of The University of Queensland made the discovery during research into the motor neurons that control breathing.

Shell-Crushers Perfected Feeding During the Cambrian

Evolution has explored many approaches to eating prey, and discarded almost as many, but one group of marine arthropods optimised the biomechanics of their feeding structures more than half a billion years ago according to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (https://goo.gl/33T3Ea).

Amendment of Act Would Give Defence Department “Unprecedented Powers to Regulate Research”

The Association of Australian Medical Research Institutes (AAMRI) has warned that proposed changes to the Defence Trade Control Act would severely impact on international research collaboration. The proposal includes controls over the supply of any technology, without explanation, and the power to control publication of research in scientific journals.

Qubit Reader Brings Quantum Computing Closer

The development of a compact sensor that can access information stored in the electrons of individual atoms brings scalable quantum computing in a silicon chip one step closer. The development, conducted within Prof Michelle Simmons’ group at the Centre of Excellence for Quantum Computation and Communication Technology at The University of NSW, was published in Physical Review X (https://goo.gl/3R8vxc).

Dingoes Reached Australia More Recently Than Previously Thought

Researchers from The University of Western Australia and the Australian National University have uncovered new evidence that dingoes arrived in Australia between 3348 and 3081 years ago – more recently than previously thought.

A more precise date for the arrival of dingoes in Australia is important as it answers questions about the relationship between dingoes and Aboriginal people, as well as the dingoes’ possible role in the extinction of animals such as the Tasmanian devil and Tasmanian tiger on mainland Australia.

Social Cues Shape Genitals

Male mice exposed to other male competitors have thicker penis bones, according to a study published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences.

Warming Microbes May Shrink Southern Ocean Carbon Sink

The amount of carbon locked away in the depths of the Southern Ocean could fall by almost 20% by 2100 as warming waters lead to increased microbial activity, according to scientists at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies.

Unexpected Outcomes Sound Warning for Embryo Editing

New research led by the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and The University of Adelaide has uncovered a significant hurdle for realising the potential benefits of gene editing in embryos.

Tassie Devil Decline Allows Feral Cats to Flourish

The decline of the Tasmanian devil has serious repercussions for the State’s ecosystem, according to research published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (https://goo.gl/KSRuXz).

As a top carnivore on the island, the Tasmanian devil plays a very important role in structuring ecosystems, particularly through scavenging. “The severe disease-induced decline of the devil presents a unique opportunity to study how scavenging by devils structures a carnivore community,” said lead author Calum Cunningham, a PhD candidate at The University of Tasmania.

Removing Silicon Contamination Doubles Graphene Performance

Graphene is the strongest material ever tested. It’s also flexible, transparent, and conducts heat and electricity ten times better than copper. When graphene research won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 2010 it was hailed as a transformative material for flexible electronics, more powerful computer chips and solar panels, water filters and biosensors, but its performance has been mixed and industry adoption slow.