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Amazing Australian Discoveries

Australians have discovered heaps of interesting and amazing things over the years. Below is a selection of them;

Belly button lint

Dr. Karl Kruszelnicki, a researcher at the Sydney University who is well known for his radioshows on Triple J and several books on all aspects of science explained in plain language decided to do some research on belly button lint. During his radioshow he called on listeners to send in their belly button lint and after painstakingly examining the contributions of 5000 people he discovered that overweight middle aged men produce the most belly button lint!

Extinct wallaby discovered

The Tammar Wallaby had been extinct in Australia since the start of the 1900s but would you believe it, they were found on a small island near Auckland in New Zealand! In the 1870s a wildlife enthusiast by the name of Sir George brought a bunch of these wallabies to Kawau Island where they have thrived having no natural enemies. They have thrived that much that the New Zealand government regards them as a pest and wants to get rid of them. The Australian government put up $100,000.- to transport them and after some time in quarantine in Adelaide they will be re-introduced into the wild after an absence of over a century.


When farmer John Nicholas in the Daintree kept finding one dead cow after another he called in the vet whose opinion was that it looked like strychnine poisoning. First the farmer suspected neighbours of killing his cows but when the vet examined the cows he found tree seeds inside their stomachs that he sent away for analysis. It took some time for the results to come back as the seeds could not be identified but finally, after going as far as Germany where some old research results from an Australian fieldtrip were filed away the conclusion was the seeds were from an Idiospermum, one of the first flowering trees to evolve on this earth but thought to have been extinct for millions of years! Scientists rushed to theDaintree farm but were in for a shock. The farmer meanwhile had also concluded that the seeds had killed the cows so what do you do then? Of course! You get your chainsaw and cut the tree down! After their initial heart attack on arrival the scientists later managed to find more Idiospermums.
The Daintree without a doubt still has countless secrets and new species to be discovered, at the canopy crane at Coconut Beach where scientists get lifted up in a gondola to study life in the canopy many thousands of new insects have been discovered in only a couple of years.

Lemonjuice cure for AIDS

University of Melbourne's Professor Roger Short made the discovery that lemon juice kills the AIDS virus after he put lemon juice in a test tube with HIV-positive sperm and the sperm were permanently immobilised within 30 seconds. In Australia the Federal Government had refused to fund human trials of this discovery but Roger found the Thai government interested and they will fund a trial on at least 400 Thai men and women. Roger claims the lemon juice also killed syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Officials at the international AIDS conference in Bangkok announced the first human trial.

Million dollar lump

A South Australian family went for a stroll on the beach near Streaky Bay and found a big lump of a strange substance. They started asking around what it could be and would you believe it, it was a lump of ambergris, a wax-like substance originating from the intestine of a sperm whale. The stuff stinks like no tomorrow when spitted out by the whale but as it floats around the ocean for a few years the effects of salt water and sun change it and the smell improves dramatically. Throughout history it has been a prized substance used in perfumes, for medicinal purposes, as an aphrodisiac, to enhance the flavours of food and wine, and for all sorts of herbal and homeopathic remedies. With prices of up to $US65 a gram being paid for the extremely rare stuff it is worth more than gold and the 14.75kg lump could earn the South Australian family a million dollars!

Pintupi nine

In October 1984 Melbourne newspaper 'The Herald' ran a spectacular headline "We find the lost tribe! " A group of nine Aborigines was discovered in the forbidding Great Sandy Desert who still walked around naked and had never seen a car or shotgun before! They were in fact not lost at all but just living a nomadic lifestyle and surviving just fine. But their "discovery" was considered huge news in an age where people considered the world explored and charted.
During the 1950's the British were firing rockets from Woomera direction west and thought it was best to move the local Pintupi tribe Aborigines out of the area so they relocated them up to the Northern Territory and north west Western Australia. They did not fare well there and alcohol did its damage. But during the 1970s when Aborigines were given landrights they started making plans to return to their home lands and in 1981 the Pintupi traveled to Kintore near the Western Australia border to set up a community. Later they crossed the border as their actual homeland lay further west and so it happened that in 1984 when Pinta Pinta and his family were setting up a settlement at Winparrku that they were spotted by Piyiti and Warlimpirrnga, who were scared by their car, intrigued by their clothes, and angry about them invading their land. They met but initially did not know they all originated from the same tribe and there was a tense stand-off where they were frightened of eachother and a gunshot was fired. This caused the settlers to flee and, on a flat tyre, they drove 60 km. back to the others to tell them what they had seen, still thinking they had seen ghosts or scorcerers. Fortunately Freddy West Tjakamarra knew of a family that had never come in to let themselves be transported by the British and they felt sorry for 'the naked ones' as they called them and decided to look for them. It took them some time as the two had gone on the run north, having been vary scared by the shotgun, and they tried to hide their tracks. The trackers even stripped naked as they thought the group might be scared by clothed people. They started finding more tracks of another seven people and eventually they found an exhausted older woman hiding in the spinifex, with a man nearby ready to throw a spear. Finally as tensions settled the group was given the choice of coming in with them or staying there and they opted to come in. Most of them reluctantly climbed in the vehicle but several jogged behind the vehicles. The tiny settlement of Kiwirrkurra where they arrived was not exactly the highlight of civilization but still in comparison to their previous lifestyle there were many modern conveniences to discover, like matches, blankets, sugar, oranges, and within several days they all had colds and were coughing and sneezing. The group was actually under threat from inbreeding at that time as the genepool had run dangerously low being isolated all that time, normally Aborigines have a complicated skin classification system to avoid this. Some of them died in the next few years due to medical problems and some moved on to become well known artists.

Spag bol

Dr Adele Wessell, a historian at Southern Cross University has done research on what Aussies most often cook at home and has discovered that spaghetti bolognaise, (called spag bol by Aussies that like to abbreviate everything in life), is Australia's national dish! She will present her discovery to the British World Conference in Melbourne from July 2 to 4, entitled 'There's no taste like home: the food of the empire'.

Stomach ulcers caused by bacteria

Aussie scientists Robin Warren and Barry Marshall discovered that stomach ulcers are causes by the bacteria Helicobacter pylori, and not stress and lifestyle like the rest of the world had always believed. This means that patients can now be treated with anti biotics, much to the dismay of pharmaceutical companies that make millions of dollars with existing anti-ulcer drugs. The two ingenious Aussies were rewarded with the 2005 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine that included $1.7 million in cash. When the whole sceptical scientific community ridiculed them Barry managed to prove them wrong in a very interesting way; he drank a dose of the Helicobacter pylori bacteria that he had grown in his lab and hip, hip, hooray! shortly after he was diagnosed with stomach ulcers. His wife thought he was nuts when he told her in an ecstatic state the good news that he now had stomach ulcers!

Stout infantfish

The first one of this tiny species was discovered at Lizard island in north Queensland in 1979.
A fully grown adult stout infantfish grows to a maximum of seven mm. and weighs only one milligram! They also do not live longer than two months and never get to develop fins, teeth or scales and reach maturity in only one month but as they are paedomorphic they retain larval characteristics all their life. The female lays her eggs when she is only two to four weeks old and then dies not too much later. The fish has been submitted to the Guiness Book of Records to be listed as the world's smallest vertebrate.


Photo by Froggy

The rocks pictured above are found in the Hamelin Pool Marine Nature Reserve on the way to Monkey Mia.
At first glance they do not look overly exciting and it is not too long ago that scientists discovered what they actually are, they include some of the most ancient records of life on Earth!
According to the scientists these stromaltolites are layered accretionary structures formed in shallow water by the trapping, binding and cementation of sedimentary grains by biofilms of microorganisms, especially cyanobacteria (commonly known as blue-green algae).
And because these "rocks" have been doing this pretty well ever since our planet has existed, about 3.5 billion years or so, they are like an aeroplane's black box to the scientists. About 1,250 million years ago they were most abundant and nowadays they only survive in a few places on earth, mostly in highly saline environments.


stromatolites on the west australia coast

Viagra from the sea

Mackay-based stinger expert Dr Peter Fenner discovered in 1998 that a rare type of irukandji jellyfish in the Whitsundays/Mackay area can cause, aside from painful cramps and vomiting, a prolonged erection in men that are stung by this sea creature. But they also said that, before hordes of older men start booking reeftrips to search for this creature, they should realize it is very rare and researchers only see two specimens a year. Miss Gershwin who works at James Cook University said that it was an important discovery from a pharmaceutical point of view though research into this phenomena would prove difficult as the species was too rare to be harvested.
So it looks like manufactured 'Natural Sea Viagra' is along way off and it is not advisable to purposely get stung before your date because the side effects of getting stung include severe pain, vomiting, a potentially fatal rise in blood pressure and severe cerebral haemorrhaging.

Wollemi Pine

Photo by

The Wollemi Pine (Wollemia nobilis) was discovered purely by chance near the Blue Mountains by bushwalker David Noble, a NSW National Parks and Wildlife Officer, in 1994. It is one of the oldest and rarest trees in the world and related to the Kauri, Norfolk Island, Hoop, Bunya and Monkey Puzzle pines.The Wollemi Pine belongs to the 200 million year old Araucariaceae family and was thought to be extinct, the oldest known fossil is 90 million years old! Their location is kept secret as there are only a hundred mature trees found. The Wollemi Pine is a conifer with attractive, unusual dark green foliage, bubbly bark and sprouts multiple trunks. It grows fast in light, favours acid soils, and temperatures from -5-45°C . The largest wild Wollemi Pine in the rainforest gorge is 40m tall with a main trunk of 1.2m wide. Conservationists have given the tree its own website where you can get involved in the conservation of this tree, more info...


Do you know of, or have made, any amazing Australian discoveries? Then contact us!

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