Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


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

The Paradox of Healthy Obesity

Researchers have defined key characteristics that enable some obese individuals to remain free from type 2 diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

“It has been known for some time that some obese individuals seem to stay metabolically healthy,” said A/Prof Jerry Greenfield of Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital and the Garvan Institute of Medical Research. “However, there has been no consensus about how to define ‘metabolically healthy’ obesity – so it has not been easy to understand what underpins these individuals’ apparent protection from disease.”

Breast Cancer Starved by Meat and Dairy Nutrient

The discovery of a significant link between breast cancer and nutrition is leading to a new treatment to “starve” breast cancer cells.

A/Prof Jeff Holst’s team at Sydney’s Centenary Institute stopped breast cancer cells from growing by blocking the proteins that pump key nutrients into the tumour cells. The method has now proven to be effective in preventing the growth of melanoma, prostate cancer and breast cancer cells.

Roaring Cave Reveals How Climate Changed History

Research led by UNSW Australia has produced a 3000-year-long record of climatic variations that may have influenced historical events such as the fall of the Roman Empire and the Viking Age of expansion.

The study of five stalagmites in Roaring Cave in north-west Scotland is the first to use a compilation of cave measurements to track changes in a climate phenomenon called the North Atlantic Oscillation.

Genetic Test Stings Killer Bee Invaders

A new genetic test will enable the importation of honey bees from places where killer bees are present.

Australia needs to import bees that are resistant to the Varroa mite, but are unable to do so due to the risk of introducing the “killer” bee subspecies.

The mite is present in all bee-keeping countries except Australia. It devastates colonies by sucking bees’ blood and spreading blood-borne diseases.

No Australian honeybees have resistance to the mite, so if it managed to evade Australian quarantine measures it could destroy local bee stocks within a couple of years.

Black Holes Behave

Swinburne University researchers have found a formula to predict the masses of black holes in galaxies of various sizes.

While the central black hole in large galaxies is related to the mass of the bulge of stars at the centre of the galaxy, some astronomers have claimed that this is not true for black holes at the centre of galaxies with small bulges.

A Dinosaur with a Cock’s Comb

By Stephen Luntz

The first evidence of a fleshy crest on a dinosaur has been compared to the comb on modern birds such as roosters.

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Oldest Dinosaur Embryos

An adult skeleton of Lufengosaurus

An adult skeleton of Lufengosaurus, a species of dinosaur from which the oldest dinosaur embryos have been found.

By Stephen Luntz

The world’s oldest dinosaur embryos have been found in southern China, providing insight into the developments of the largest creatures ever to roam the land.

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Inconsistent Reaction Time Predicts Mortality

Inconsistent performance in responding to a stimulus, rather than the speed with which one responds, is a marker of accelerated ageing and predicts mortality in older people, according to research published in PLoS ONE.

Scientists at the UNSW Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing measured the intraindividual variability of reaction times in older adults, and found that it predicted survival time after accounting for any signs of decline in cognitive functioning that may herald dementia.