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.
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.