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The crocodiles that hang around a nuclear power station

Biscayne National Park–What’s the difference between a crocodile and an alligator? It’s a common question visitors ask National Park Service rangers.

Biscayne Bioblitz 2010.jpg

There are very clear differences in skull shape and coloring–and surprisingly, according to some experts, the American crocodile is less aggressive than the American alligator. The American croc is evidently a lot more genteel than its Australian “Salty” cousin or Africa’s Nile crocodile.

South Florida is the only place in the U.S. where both the American crocodile and and the American alligator can be found. A population hangs around the Turkey Point nuclear power station, from where they visit Biscayne National Park, Park Ranger Christi Carmichael told me.

She did not say that the proximity to the nuclear station might have made the crocs a little more even tempered.

Carmichael has been staffing an information booth for visitors to the bioblitz, showcasing a number of skulls of large animals such as the croc, turtle and manatee.

She also had some giant marine snail shells.

Ocean snails, it turns, may be even more ruthless than the reptiles when it comes to their feeding habits. Different snails have different techniques to get into shellfish. Some pry open clam shells, others drill holes through them.

Here at the bioblitz it’s not really possible to see many of the fascinating creatures Carmichael teaches us about. That’s because they’re either out on the reef, or hanging around the forbidden zone around the nuclear power plant. I was happy to settle for the show-and-tell with the skulls.

Posted by David Braun

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