Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938


Feature article

Spitting Image

An archerfish spits a carefully aimed jet of water.

An archerfish spits a carefully aimed jet of water to knock an unsuspecting insect down to the water.

By Shelby Temple

Archerfish are known for their remarkable hunting technique of spitting water at insects above the water, and their eyes are specially adapted for seeing both above and below the water’s surface.

Archerfish have earned their name for spitting jets of water at insects to knock them down to the water’s surface where they can be eaten. However, what is most incredible is not that they can spit, but that they can spit accurately despite the distortion that occurs due to refraction as light travels from air to water. Recent research is giving us new clues as to how they achieve their astonishing accuracy.

Heat Stress in a Warming World

Global warming is, unsurprisingly, making heat waves hotter.

Global warming is, unsurprisingly, making heat waves hotter.

By Steven Sherwood, Tord Kjellstrom and Donna Green

Heat stress could be the most dangerous consequence of global warming this century.

Imagine you are working in a Vietnamese shoe factory without air conditioning. During the hot season, as temperatures soar towards 40°C inside the stifling building, your production targets remain fixed. To maintain your output you are allowed to take a little longer on your breaks to cool down. Still, the sweltering heat means that you just can’t work as efficiently, so in order to complete your work you start an hour earlier and finish later.

The Straw Men of Climatology


The contrarian critique of climatology in the media, popular books and blogs is based on a “straw man” version of science. Image: iStockphoto

By James Risbey

The straw man arguments of climate contrarians portray a brittle image of climatology that ignores how science produces robust knowledge by embracing and correcting errors.

James Risbey is a senior research scientist in the Centre for Australian Weather and Climate Research at CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Capturing Carbon with Membranes


By 2030, 80% of world energy will still be supplied by fossil fuels because the global energy demand during this period is expected to grow by 45%.

By Colin Scholes

Membrane technologies being developed in Australia hope to cut the cost of capturing industrial emissions of carbon dioxide.

Colin Scholes is a Research Fellow at the Cooperative Research Centre for Greenhouse Gas Technologies (CO2CRC), the University of Melbourne.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Double Jeopardy for Corals

Bleached coral

During the bleaching event there was a sharp contrast between corals that had C2 algae (left) and type D algae (right)

By Alison Jones

Not only are corals jeopardised by warmer waters but their growth is constrained as they change from heat-sensitive to heat-tolerant symbiotic algae in order to survive.

Dr Alison Jones is a postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Environmental Management at Central Queensland University in Rockhampton, and has been studying the impacts of climate change on local coral communities in the southern Great Barrier Reef Keppel area since 2004.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Big Floods = Big Barras


Study co-author Ian Halliday catches a barramundi, a popular species for anglers in rivers such as the Daly River in the Northern Territory.

By Tim Jardine, Brad Pusey and Ian Halliday

More barramundi survive to adulthood during big flood years due to increased feeding opportunities.

Tim Jardine and Brad Pusey are Research Fellows at the Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University. Ian Halliday is a biologist with the Queensland Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Sinking Aristotle’s Sailing Octopus


A female argonaut (Argonauta argo) swimming close to the sea surface in the Sea of Japan. Photo: Julian Finn, Museum Victoria

By Julian Finn

By expertly manipulating air gathered from the sea surface, argonauts are able to control their buoyancy and traverse the world’s oceans at depth.

Dr Julian Finn is a Curator of Marine Invertebrates at Museum Victoria. This study has been published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society of London, B: Biological Sciences.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Sleight of Memory



By John Bradshaw

Our memories can easily deceive us, for good or for ill.

John Bradshaw is Emeritus Professor of Neuropsychology at Monash University. This is an edited version of a script broadcast on Ockham’s Razor.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Head Modification Explains the Origin of the First Australians


The Nacurie 1 cranium provides evidence that mothers intentionally modified the shape of their infants’ heads in the Murray River region of south-eastern Australia during the terminal Pleistocene. Photo: Peter Brown

By Peter Brown

Evidence of head shape modification among Pleistocene Australians helps refute claims of an evolutionary connection with Indonesian Homo erectus.

Peter Brown holds the Chair of Palaeoanthropology at the University of New England, Armidale, NSW.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.

Lizards Give Birth To Cancer Clues


The same protein found in pre-cancerous skin cells helps blood vessels to grow in the placenta of the three-toed skink (Saiphos equalis). Photo: Nadav Pezaro

By Bridget Murphy

A gene found in a pregnant lizard may provide important information about the origins and treatment of cancer in humans.

Bridget Murphy is completing a PhD in biology at the University of Sydney.

To view this article subscribe or purchase a yearly pass here.