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

Dentists Fall for Cavity Illusion

By Stephen Luntz

An optical illusion is causing dentists to drill unnecessarily large holes in their patients' teeth.

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IVF Mice Prone to Diabetes

By Stephen Luntz

Mice conceived through IVF are more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those conceived naturally, adding to evidence that the same may be true for humans.

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Briefs

By Stephen Luntz

Hormones combine against obesity, antioxidants don’t aid conception, a drug prevents breast cancer relapse, and more.

Parrots Alive

DNA analysis of five feathers collected in the Lake Eyre Basin have confirmed that the Australian night parrot is not extinct.

Pezoporus occidentalis is a different species from New Zealand’s famous kakapo, but shares both the popular name of night parrot and a critically endangered status. Indeed, WA Museum CEO Alec Coles said: “The night parrot is a bird many people believed to be extinct up until 1990, and the WA Museum is very pleased to have been asked to authenticate its existence”.

Low Blood Sugar in Newborns Linked to Later Difficulties

A newborn condition affecting one in six babies has been linked to impairment in some high-level brain functions that show up by a child’s fifth birthday.

Fossils Help Determine Ocean’s Role in Last Ice Age

Scientists from The University of Tasmania’s Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies and Simon Fraser University have used the fossil record to pull together the first global database of ocean temperatures over the past 125,000 years in order to explain why carbon dioxide levels were low at the time.

The study, published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, combined ocean temperature records with other studies to show how carbon dioxide took different paths into the deep sea during different phases of the ice age.

Extreme Fires to Increase

Increasingly dangerous fire weather is forecast for Australia and the Mediterranean as the global footprint of extreme fires expands, according to a report published in Nature Ecology and Evolution.

An international collaboration of researchers compiled a global satellite database of the intensity of 23 million landscape fires recorded between 2002 and 2013. Of these, the researchers honed in on 478 of the most extreme wildfire events.

Fish Fossil May Reveal Origin of Human Teeth

Three-dimensional prints of a 400-million-year-old fish fossil from around Lake Burrinjuck 50 km north-west of Canberra reveal the possible evolutionary origins of human teeth, new research has found.

Researchers at The Australian National University and Queensland Museum digitally dissected the jaws of Buchanosteus – an armoured fish from the extinct placoderm group – and used the 3D prints to learn how the jaws moved and whether the fish had teeth.

Plastic Waste Reverse Engineered Into Clean Fuel

A Griffith University researcher is hoping to revolutionise how plastic is recycled by converting it into fuel that is cleaner and more energy-efficient than petrol or diesel.

PhD student Songpol Boonsawat has developed a waste disposal system that turns household plastic waste, contaminated plastic waste and targeted plastic waste into fuel. “This work could revolutionise how to sustainably eliminate plastic waste from landfill and reduce the contamination of plastic in nature by closing the loop of the plastic product lifecycle,” Boonsawat says.

New Tasmanian Devil Facial Cancer

Routine field research has identified a second transmissible cancer in Tasmanian devils that is very similar to Devil Facial Tumour Disease (DFTD). The new cancer has similarities to DFTD as it causes tumours, primarily on the face or inside the mouth, and is probably also spread between devils by biting.

What Women Want in a Sperm Donor

A study into how women choose sperm donors online has revealed that men who are intellectual, shy, calm and methodical are selected to produce more children rather than those who are extroverted.

“Worldwide demand for sperm donors is so great, an informal online market has emerged in which offspring are being produced outside of the more formal fertility clinic setting,” said Mr Stephen Whyte of Queensland University of Technology.