And the song goes on

11 10 2008

Something I learned doing research with endangered Australian marsupials was that Australia has the worst record on history as far as extinctions of major animal species.

This doesn’t look set to change anytime soon.

At least my Australian European-ness can feel a little less self conscious – it seems its been that way since humans started arriving on this island.

Particularly Tasmania.

Which is still very depressing. Tasmania’s island of an island status means it does have some of the more interesting ecosystem inhabitants. With creatures like the Tasmanian devil not found anywhere else anymore.

Human arrivals to isolated islands – such as Mauritias and New Zealand – has seen severe eco-damage throughout history.

There is also a feature on this research in this month’s Australasian Science.





Sydney Harbour’s Heavy Metal Weeds

8 10 2008

via ScienceDaily

I live in North Sydney, just up the hill from Luna Park and the iconic Harbour Bridge.

It’s good to learn that the horror stories about the quality of Sydney Harbour’s water are actually true.

The waters of the harbour are actually teeming with life of all kinds. But rising levels of heavy metals in the ecosystem is threatening its stability. Copper, lead and zinc find their way into the waterways from stormwater runoff, industrial waters and motorised watercraft. These heavy metals are being found in large quantities in seaweed at a number of locations on the harbour, even higher than notoriously contaminated around the Hong Kong Islands and Brazil’s Sepetiba Bay.

This won’t necessarily kill the seaweed. But its worse for the whole ecosystem. The UNSW studies show that areas with heavily contaminated weeds are devoid of grazing amphipods. This could be considered good news for the weed (and possibly accumulation could be selected for), but less grazing amphipods means less food to support higher predators, like fish. The ecosystem collapses from top to bottom. Not good.





Natural non-high relief

23 09 2008

via Science Daily

A new drug hopes to exploit cannaboid receptors without getting you high.

By targetting cannaboid receptors found outside the brain, UK researchers hope that CB2 agonists will not only be capable of being a non-high inducing medicinal herb, but even be an alternative to other risky pain-relieving drugs like morphine.

Non-opioid drugs are gaining a bit of press lately. Last month, there was Xenome’s new drug derived from cone shell venom.