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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More than forty years in U.S., UK, and South African media gives David Max Braun global perspective and experience across multiple storytelling platforms. His coverage of science, nature, politics, and technology has been published/broadcast by the BBC, CNN, NPR, AP, UPI, National Geographic, TechWeb, De Telegraaf, Travel World, and Argus South African Newspapers. He has published two books and won several journalism awards. In his 22-year career at National Geographic he was VP and editor in chief of National Geographic Digital Media, and the founding editor of the National Geographic Society blog, hosting a global discussion on issues resonating with the Society's mission and initiatives. He also directed the Society side of the Fulbright-National Geographic Digital Storytelling Fellowship, awarded to Americans seeking the opportunity to spend nine months abroad, engaging local communities and sharing stories from the field with a global audience. A regular expert on National Geographic Expeditions, David also lectures on storytelling for impact. He has 120,000 followers on social media: Facebook  Twitter  LinkedIn