SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Australia

387

A “Christmas holiday effect” showing elevated cardiovascular mortality over the Christmas holidays (December 25 to January 7) was demonstrated previously in study from the United States. To separate the effect of seasonality from any holiday effect, a matching analysis was conducted for New Zealand, where the Christmas holiday period falls within the summer season.

Concepts: United States, Pacific Ocean, Australia, Autumn, New York City, Antarctica, Christmas, Northern Hemisphere

374

To determine whether smokers smoking from packs required under Australia’s plain packaging law had different smoking beliefs and quitting thoughts, compared with those still smoking from branded packs.

Concepts: Australia, The Australian, Melbourne

229

The land planarian Platydemus manokwari de Beauchamp, 1963 or “New Guinea flatworm” is a highly invasive species, mainly in the Pacific area, and recently in Europe (France). We report specimens from six additional countries and territories: New Caledonia (including mainland and two of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou and Maré), Wallis and Futuna Islands, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida, USA. We analysed the COI gene (barcoding) in these specimens with two sets of primers and obtained 909 bp long sequences. In addition, specimens collected in Townsville (Australia) were also sequenced. Two haplotypes of the COI sequence, differing by 3.7%, were detected: the “World haplotype” found in France, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Singapore, Florida and Puerto Rico; and the “Australian haplotype” found in Australia. The only locality with both haplotypes was in the Solomon Islands. The country of origin of Platydemus manokwari is New Guinea, and Australia and the Solomon Islands are the countries closest to New Guinea from which we had specimens. These results suggest that two haplotypes exist in the area of origin of the species, but that only one of the two haplotypes (the “World haplotype”) has, through human agency, been widely dispersed. However, since P. manokwari is now recorded from 22 countries in the world and we have genetic information from only 8 of these, with none from New Guinea, this analysis provides only partial knowledge of the genetic structure of the invasive species. Morphological analysis of specimens from both haplotypes has shown some differences in ratio of the genital structures but did not allow us to interpret the haplotypes as different species. The new reports from Florida and Puerto Rico are firsts for the USA, for the American continent, and the Caribbean. P. manokwari is a known threat for endemic terrestrial molluscs and its presence is a matter of concern. While most of the infected territories reported until now were islands, the newly reported presence of the species in mainland US in Florida should be considered a potential major threat to the whole US and even the Americas.

Concepts: Pacific Ocean, Australia, French language, Melanesia, Oceania, New Caledonia, Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna

201

Most commercially available therapeutic honey is derived from flowering Leptospermum scoparium (manuka) plants from New Zealand. Australia has more than 80 Leptospermum species, and limited research to date has found at least some produce honey with high non-peroxide antibacterial activity (NPA) similar to New Zealand manuka, suggesting Australia may have a ready supply of medical-grade honey. The activity of manuka honey is largely due to the presence of methylglyoxal (MGO), which is produced non-enzymatically from dihydroxyacetone (DHA) present in manuka nectar. The aims of the current study were to chemically quantify the compounds contributing to antibacterial activity in a collection of Australian Leptospermum honeys, to assess the relationship between MGO and NPA in these samples, and to determine whether NPA changes during honey storage. Eighty different Leptospermum honey samples were analysed, and therapeutically useful NPA was seen in samples derived from species including L. liversidgei and L. polygalifolium. Exceptionally high levels of up to 1100 mg/kg MGO were present in L. polygalifolium honey samples sourced from the Northern Rivers region in NSW and Byfield, QLD, with considerable diversity among samples. There was a strong positive relationship between NPA and MGO concentration, and DHA was present in all of the active honey samples, indicating a potential for ongoing conversion to MGO. NPA was stable, with most samples showing little change following seven years of storage in the dark at 4°C. This study demonstrates the potential for Australian Leptospermum honey as a wound care product, and argues for an extension of this analysis to other Leptospermum species.

Concepts: New Zealand, Australia, Flower, Honey, New South Wales, Leptospermum scoparium, Monofloral honey, Leptospermum

199

Mosquito-borne disease is an annual problem in Australia, with endemic pathogens such as Ross River virus infecting thousands of people each year. The recent emergence of Zika virus in South America and the Pacific, together with ongoing outbreaks of dengue viruses in Southeast Asia, generated great community interest in the most effective strategies to avoid mosquito bites. Large-scale mosquito control programs are not common in Australia and are limited in New South Wales (NSW). The use of topical insect repellents is a key recommendation by health authorities to prevent mosquito-borne disease. All products sold in Australia purporting to repel mosquitoes must be registered with the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority. Despite around 100 commercial products registered as repelling mosquitoes, there are relatively few active ingredients used across these formulations. The most common are diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, p-menthane-3,8-diol (PMD) and a range of plant-derived products (e.g. melaleuca, eucalyptus, citronella oils). Research has shown that each of these active ingredients varies in the duration of protection provided against biting mosquitoes. Recommendations by health authorities are informed by this research, but inconsistencies between recommendations and available repellent formulations and their concentration of active ingredients can cause confusion in the community. There are conflicts between the data resulting from scholarly research, marketing promotion by manufacturers and recommendations provided by overseas health authorities. A review was undertaken of NSW Health’s current recommendations on choosing and using insect repellents, taking into consideration recent research and currently registered topical repellents.

Concepts: Malaria, Mosquito, Australia, Dengue fever, West Nile virus, Insect repellent, DEET, New South Wales

191

In recent decades, many marine populations have experienced major declines in abundance, but we still know little about where management interventions may help protect the highest levels of marine biodiversity. We used modeled spatial distribution data for nearly 12,500 species to quantify global patterns of species richness and two measures of endemism. By combining these data with spatial information on cumulative human impacts, we identified priority areas where marine biodiversity is most and least impacted by human activities, both within Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Our analyses highlighted places that are both accepted priorities for marine conservation like the Coral Triangle, as well as less well-known locations in the southwest Indian Ocean, western Pacific Ocean, Arctic and Antarctic Oceans, and within semi-enclosed seas like the Mediterranean and Baltic Seas. Within highly impacted priority areas, climate and fishing were the biggest stressors. Although new priorities may arise as we continue to improve marine species range datasets, results from this work are an essential first step in guiding limited resources to regions where investment could best sustain marine biodiversity.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Atlantic Ocean, Indian Ocean, Pacific Ocean, Australia, Ocean, Arctic Ocean, Southern Ocean

174

Vitamin B12 deficiency is prevalent in many countries of origin of refugees. Using a threshold of 5% above which a prevalence of low Vitamin B12 is indicative of a population health problem, we hypothesised that Vitamin B12 deficiency exceeds this threshold among newly-arrived refugees resettling in Australia, and is higher among women due to their increased risk of food insecurity. This paper reports Vitamin B12 levels in a large cohort of newly arrived refugees in five Australian states and territories.

Concepts: Demography, Megaloblastic anemia, Vitamin B12, Australia, New South Wales, Queensland, Vitamin B12 deficiency, Subacute combined degeneration of spinal cord

170

Among Oceania’s population of 35 million people, the greatest number living in poverty currently live in Papua New Guinea (PNG), Fiji, Vanuatu, and the Solomon Islands. These impoverished populations are at high risk for selected NTDs, including Necator americanus hookworm infection, strongyloidiasis, lymphatic filariasis (LF), balantidiasis, yaws, trachoma, leprosy, and scabies, in addition to outbreaks of dengue and other arboviral infections including Japanese encephalitis virus infection. PNG stands out for having the largest number of cases and highest prevalence for most of these NTDs. However, Australia’s Aboriginal population also suffers from a range of significant NTDs. Through the Pacific Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis, enormous strides have been made in eliminating LF in Oceania through programs of mass drug administration (MDA), although LF remains widespread in PNG. There are opportunities to scale up MDA for PNG’s major NTDs, which could be accomplished through an integrated package that combines albendazole, ivermectin, diethylcarbamazine, and azithromycin, in a program of national control. Australia’s Aboriginal population may benefit from appropriately integrated MDA into primary health care systems. Several emerging viral NTDs remain important threats to the region.

Concepts: Australia, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Melanesia, Oceania, Neglected diseases, Hookworm, Tropical diseases

151

A new genus and species of fossil bat is described from New Zealand’s only pre-Pleistocene Cenozoic terrestrial fauna, the early Miocene St Bathans Fauna of Central Otago, South Island. Bayesian total evidence phylogenetic analysis places this new Southern Hemisphere taxon among the burrowing bats (mystacinids) of New Zealand and Australia, although its lower dentition also resembles Africa’s endemic sucker-footed bats (myzopodids). As the first new bat genus to be added to New Zealand’s fauna in more than 150 years, it provides new insight into the original diversity of chiropterans in Australasia. It also underscores the significant decline in morphological diversity that has taken place in the highly distinctive, semi-terrestrial bat family Mystacinidae since the Miocene. This bat was relatively large, with an estimated body mass of ~40 g, and its dentition suggests it had an omnivorous diet. Its striking dental autapomorphies, including development of a large hypocone, signal a shift of diet compared with other mystacinids, and may provide evidence of an adaptive radiation in feeding strategy in this group of noctilionoid bats.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Evolution, Species, Ecology, Mammal, Australia, Bat, South Island

131

Invasive non-native species are of great concern throughout the world. Potential severity of the impacts of non-native species is assessed for effective conservation managements. However, such risk assessment is often difficult, and underestimating possible harm can cause substantial issues. Here, we document catastrophic decline of a soil ecosystem in the Ogasawara Islands, a UNESCO World Heritage site, due to predation by non-native land nemertine Geonemertes pelaensis of which harm has been previously unnoticed. This nemertine is widely distributed in tropical regions, and no study has shown that it feeds on arthropods. However, we experimentally confirmed that G. pelaensis predates various arthropod groups. Soil fauna of Ogasawara was originally dominated by isopods and amphipods, but our surveys in the southern parts of Hahajima Island showed that these became extremely scarce in the areas invaded by G. pelaensis. Carnivorous arthropods decreased by indirect effects of its predation. Radical decline of soil arthropods since the 1980s on Chichijima Island was also caused by G. pelaensis and was first recorded in 1981. Thus, the soil ecosystem was already seriously damaged in Ogasawara by the nemertine. The present findings raise an issue and limitation in recognizing threats of non-native species.

Concepts: Crustacean, UNESCO, Australia, Malacostraca, World Heritage Site, Cultural heritage, International Council on Monuments and Sites, Natural heritage