Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


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

Toad-Proof Fence

Toad-proof fences around dams can prevent the pests from cooling down in the hot, arid zones of Australia, killing them in large enough numbers to stop their spread. “This is the first study to demonstrate long-term control of cane toads,” says A/Prof Mike Letnic of UNSW

New Life for Old Malaria Drug

Chloroquine could be given a new lease of life as an anti-malarial treatment simply by being administered differently.

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Fluorescent Biosensor Lights Up Cancer

Researchers from the Garvan Institute have developed a mouse that expresses a fluorescing biosensor in every cell of its body, allowing diseased cells and drugs to be tracked and evaluated in real time and in three dimensions.

The biosensor mimics the action of a target protein known as Rac, which drives cell movement in many types of cancer. Rac behaves like a switch: when it’s active, the biosensor picks up chemical cues and glows blue. When Rac is inactive the biosensor glows yellow.

Using sophisticated imaging techniques it is possible to follow Rac activation in any organ at any time, or watch moment-by-moment oscillation of Rac activity at the front or back of cells as they move in the body. This technology has been used to monitor Rac activity in many organs in response to drug treatment.

Penguins Retreat from Sea-Ice

By Stephen Luntz

For the first time, emperor penguins have been found nesting on ice shelves, sometimes 40 metres above the ocean rather than the much lower sea-ice they normally frequent.

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Small Crater Responsible for the Great Dying

By Stephen Luntz

An Australian scientist believes he has identified the crater responsible for the greatest extinction in our planet’s history.

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Sneaky Males Switch on Their Female Brain

Researchers at The University of Otago have observed how males of some species disguise themselves as females in order to improve their chances of mating.

Gender Behaviours Inherited from Social Environment

The different ways men and women behave can be inherited from our social environment – not just from genes. In a report in Trends in Cognitive Sciences, Prof Cordelia Fine of The University of Melbourne and colleagues showed how interactions between the genetic and hormonal components of sex create variability between individuals while environmental factors supply the stable conditions needed for the reproduction of the trait in each generation.