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

Star Formation Reduced in Galactic Groups

By Stephen Luntz

Galaxies in groups lose hydrogen gas as they move through the intergalactic medium, making it harder for them to form stars.

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Burial Site Reveals Pre-history

By Stephen Luntz

A burial site in Vietnam provides insights into a hunter-gather population that inhabited South-East Asia more than 4500 years ago and is closely related to indigenous Australians and Melanesians.

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Introduced Megafauna Are Rewilding Ecosystems

Researchers have called for a reassessment of conservation values and attitudes surrounding introduced species following a study suggesting that large herbivores introduced to new regions are rewilding modern ecosystems.

When Neanderthals Walked with Modern Humans

Archaeologists at The Australian National University and The University of Sydney have opened a window into one of the most exciting periods in human history – the transition between Neanderthals and modern humans.

Nearby Star Offers New Insight into Earth’s Sun

After nearly a decade of intensive searching, an international team of astronomers has discovered the first star that varies its magnetic field like our own Sun.

The “BCool Project”, an international collaboration studying the dynamo generation of magnetic fields in cool stars, has been mapping the magnetic fields of a number of nearby stars using the Bernard Lyot Telescope in the French Pyrenees.

Bees Have Lateralised Brains Too

Lateralisation has been considered a unique characteristic of the human brain, with different types of processing taking place in the left and right hemispheres. Australian research has now concluded that the social demands imposed on honeybees has seen lateralisation evolve in their brains too.

Seaweed threatens Pacific coral reefs

Regulating overfishing could protect Pacific coral reefs from strangulation by seaweed, according to new findings by a University of Queensland scientist.

“Pacific reefs are more vulnerable to increases in seaweed than we used to think,” said Professor Peter Mumby from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies and UQ’s School of Biological Sciences.

“Seaweeds tend to bloom when too many herbivorous fish are fished heavily or when agricultural fertilizers pollute rivers that run into the sea.

Nullarbor’s Ancient Forests Uncovered

Rather than being the treeless, limestone expanse that the Nullarbor Plain is today, dating of fossilised pollen has revealed that five million years ago it received up to four times as much rain as it gets now and was an expanse of gum and eucalyptus trees, banksias and other flowering plants that are now confined to Australia’s east coast.

The finding, published in PNAS (www.tinyurl.com/jcu7hyv), sheds new light on the environmental history of the Nullarbor, a former seabed that was lifted above the sea 14 million years ago.

Gene Editing of Stem Cells Hastened

A new technique has demonstrated how genetically repaired stem cells can be derived from patient skin cells in as little as 2 weeks, compared with conventional multi-step approaches that take more than 3 months.