Shark Valley

Yesterday I rode out to Shark Valley (which is in the everglades, and doesn’t have anything to do with sharks — I believe it’s named after the Shark River).  As I approached the everglades there was a lot of nice fuzzy pine forest, and I sort of imagined that the everglades would get pinier as I approached, but that was totally wrong.  It looks much more like the mangroves in Yucatan… lots of brownish scrub, nothing more than 8 or 10 feet tall.

The Shark Valley park mostly consisted of a paved road and canal built long ago by an oil company.  A plaque along the road explains that the canal produces an ‘unnatural concentration of wildlife,’ and they aren’t kidding!  Alligators must travel from miles around for an uninterrupted patch of sunshine.

Parking lot for cars and alligators

Turtles compete for a patch of sunshine

This warning sign actually did me some good. The alligators were sleepy and statuesque, and I was sorely tempted to pose with my hand on their backs for scale.

These guys ('Anhinga') spend a lot of time swimming, and a lot more time stretching their wings out to dry in the sun. Right before I took this photo I watched one catch a fish which it then tossed into the air before swallowing. Showoff!

Also in the parking lot, a Great Blue Heron. It's always nice to see other Minnesotans when I fly south for the winter.

Mammals cuddle for warmth, but what's the point of of cuddling if you're a reptile? I guess this is the answer: a three-way cuddle between mom, baby, and Mr. Sun.

The thing in the everglades that I spent the most time staring at was unphotographable.  Everywhere in the water were giant schools of mosquitofish.  Each school seemed to contain one, and only one, melanic fish.  That means that there’s always 100 grey fish with one black fish stuck in the middle.  Why only one?  And why aren’t the black ones always immediately scarfed up by birds since they’re much more visible?  Google shows a fair bit of research on the topic but nothing very revealing.  The black fish are always males and often more aggressive than the normal-colored males.  So maybe it’s a trade-off between deliciousness and attractiveness… a blurb on this page confirms that the low % of melanic males remains constant over time but, frustratingly, it doesn’t say if those experiments are in populations with predators or without.
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