Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


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

Light Exposure Linked to Weight Gain in Children

Pre-schoolers exposed to more light earlier in the day tend to weigh more, according to research presented to the Sleep Downunder Conference in Melbourne.

Early childhood researchers at Queensland University of Technology studied 48 children aged 3–5 years over a 2-week period, measuring each child’s sleep, activity and light exposure along with their height and weight.

Scientists Don’t Turn a Blind Eye to Bias

Scientific journals should insist on more robust experimental processes, according to biologists who reviewed nearly 900,000 experiments.

The team from The Australian National University found that non-blind experiments – where scientists knew which samples they were recording – averaged a 27% stronger result than blind trials. However, their review suggests that less than one in four experiments used blind data recording.

A One-Shot Flu Jab for Life

A research team led by the University of Melbourne has determined how flu-killing CD8+ T cells memorise distinct strains of influenza, opening the way for the development of a one-shot flu jab for life.

The research began during the first outbreak of the avian-derived H7N9 virus in China in 2013, which saw 99% of people infected hospitalised and a 30% mortality rate. Patient zero was an elderly man who caught the virus from a chicken his wife asked him to buy at the local live bird market.

Sting in the Tail for Rare Species Conservation

The reintroduction of six severely threatened species – including bilbies and bettongs – back into their natural habitat at Scotia Sanctuary in western NSW has seen a decline in scorpions and increase in spiders. Scorpions had flourished without predation by the mammals.

Venoms Don’t Lose Their Bite

By Stephen Luntz

A box of long-lost venom samples has proven to be a treasure-trove with the potential to provide new drugs and improve our understanding of snake evolution.

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Diet Influences Mental Health in Children

By Stephen Luntz

Separate studies have found a connection between diet and mental health in children.

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Less Chemotherapy for Some Breast Cancers

By Stephen Luntz

A new combination of chemotherapy and radiotherapy has had 100% success in stopping the spread of a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer in mice.

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Night Phone Use Harms Adolescent Mental Heath

Late-night mobile phone use by adolescents is directly linked to poor quality sleep, leading to poorer mental health outcomes, reduced coping and lowered self-esteem according to the first longitudinal study that has investigated how night phone use and mental health were connected.

“We have demonstrated how poor sleep is the key link connecting an increase in night-time mobile use with subsequent increases in psychosocial issues,” said lead researcher Dr Lynette Vernon of Murdoch University.

Cane Toads Make Long-Distance Calls for Love

Scientists have discovered that cane toads make mating calls that carry many times further than other frogs and toads. “This means they are heard by more individuals and can bring in more mates to breed with than some other species,” said Mr Benjamin Muller of James Cook University.

While most frog and toad species only respond to mating calls made a few metres away, the researchers found that male cane toads respond to calls made up to 120 metres away.