NEW VENOMOUS BANDY-BANDY FOUNDPosted: Sep 5, 2018
Photo: Dr Freek Vonk
Analysis of genetic and morphological data collected from specimens of bandy-bandy discovered in northern Queensland by Dr Bryan Fry and Dr Freek Vonk in 2014 have confirmed the snake is a new, mildly venomous species – the Weipa bandy-bandy (Vermicella parscauda, above). This 80–100 cm black-and-white banded snake, while part of the venomous elapidae family, is not considered harmful to humans. In fact, its venom may contain medicinal properties, suggests Dr Kevin Arbuckle of Swansea University, who led the molecular data analysis. The species’ distribution is limited and threatened by bauxite mining, so formal evaluation ...
NAIVE BILBIES SNIFF OUT CANINE FOEPosted: Sep 5, 2018
The evolutionary timeframe necessary for naïve prey species to recognise and respond to novel predators is difficult to ascertain. For instance, does it scale to how long a species has coevolved with a predator (known as the ‘ghost of predators past’ hypothesis), is it based upon ontogenetic experience (altered behaviour based on plasticity or learning), or is it a generalised response triggered by shared characteristics of predators (known as the ‘predator archetype’ hypothesis)? The ‘ghosts of predators past’ hypothesis posits that prey species possess hard-wired antipredator responses to predators they have coevolved with over long timeframes. A December 2017 paper ...Read more
REDBACK SEX: CANNIBALISM BUT NOT ‘COERCION’Posted: Jul 4, 2018
Photo: Robert Downie
It has been known for some time that mature female redback spiders (Latrodectus hasseltii, above) cannibalise male partners during mating, but it has recently been discovered that males also engage in damaging mating tactics. Adult male redbacks mate with immature females (in their final juvenile instar), tearing the exoskeleton that covers the female’s reproductive tract in order to gain access to her newly developed, concealed genitalia. When males mate with mature females, prolonged vibratory courtship is typical, as males that attempt copulation early are killed by females before mating is complete (premature cannibalism). When males approach ...
SAVING LIVES WITH PLATYPUS MILKPosted: Jul 4, 2018
Photo: Laura Romin & Larry Dalton, Wildlife Reflections Photography
An Australian breakthrough has introduced an unlikely hero in the global fight against antibiotic resistance: the platypus. Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria build up a resistance to antibiotics and pass it on to the next generation, leading to persistent infections caused by resistant ‘superbugs’. In 2010, scientists discovered that platypus milk contained unique antibacterial properties. Now, a team of CSIRO researchers working with Deakin University has helped explain why platypus milk is so potent. The discovery was made by replicating a special protein contained in platypus milk in a laboratory ...