Quirks & Quarks

April 23: Shallow water on Europa, tourists making iguanas diabetic, dolphin social netorking and more…

Working out how dinosaurs walked and what to do to save the world’s coral reefs.

Working out how dinosaurs walked and what to do to save the world’s coral reefs.

Sadie, a 13-year-old bottlenose dolphin at SeaWorld San Diego, swims with her newborn calf at the marine park's Dolphin Stadium (Mike Aguilera/SeaWorld San Diego via Getty Images)

On this week's episode of Quirks & Quarks with Bob McDonald: 

Ridges on the surface of an icy Jupiter moon could mean water – and life

Jupiter's moon Europa has long fascinated planetary scientists because they believe under its 30km thick icy shell there is a huge ocean of water, and water could mean life. Now they think that icy ridges spotted on the moon could mean that water is much closer to the surface than we thought. And this means it might be easier for future missions to Europa to investigate it. Bob speaks with lead study author Riley Culberg about the work, recently published in the journal Nature Communications.

Ecotourists could be giving rare tropical iguanas diabetes

Ecotourists who visit the Exuma Islands of the Bahamas are encouraged to feed grapes to the rock iguanas who live there. This human-wildlife interaction may seem harmless, but it seems to be having a negative impact on the health of the endangered lizards. Susannah French, a professor of biology from Utah State University, found that the iguanas have alarmingly  elevated blood sugar levels. Her research was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. 

Endangered Bahamian rock iquana on the Exuma Islands (Submitted by Susannah French)

Dolphins whistle at each other to keep in touch with distant friends

Dolphins are intelligent and extremely social animals, who, like humans, seem to have both close bonds with family and friends, and an extended social network of friends and acquaintances. After listening to 132 hours of audio recordings captured of a group of wild dolphins in Australia, marine biologist Emma Chereskin found that the dolphins would keep in touch with their acquaintances by whistling their distinctive signature whistles in their direction. The research was published in the journal Current Biology.

Walking in the footsteps of the biggest dinosaurs

Sauropods were the biggest land animals of all time. But how did these behemoths, which weighed as much as 70 tons, walk? Did they amble along like elephants, carefully lifting one foot at a time? Or like giraffes, alternately moving their two left legs and then their two right legs? According to a new study, the answer seems to be: none of the above. Paleontologist Peter Falkingham and colleague Jens Lallensack of Liverpool John Moores University worked out the gait of these giant animals from fossil trackways. Their findings were published in the journal Current Biology.

VIDEO - Computer simulation of walking sauropod

Humans have ravaged the world's coral reefs, but some are working to fix them

Pollution, overfishing and climate change have devastated the world's coral reefs, which are some of the ocean's most productive and diverse ecosystems.  In a new book, ocean scientist Juli Berwald catalogues the damage done, but also the huge range of efforts people around the world are making to protect and restore these critical systems. Bob talks to Berwald about her book, Life on the Rocks: Building a Future for Coral Reefs.

Q&A with Juli Berwald

This picture taken on September 4, 2018 shows a view of a bommie reef in the Egyptian Red Sea marine reserve of Ras Mohamed, off the southern tip of the Sinai peninsula. (Emily Irving-Swift/AFP/Getty Images)