Lots of teeth, tough as leather, loaded with attitude – not the description of someone you want to meet in a dark alley! But that is just how our thick-skinned friend the alligator goes through life. The official state reptile for Florida alligator males can tip the scales at half a ton. These monsters have no natural predators outside of man with the biggest threat to their existence being destruction of their habitat.
How about a few Far Out Facts for our scaly friends:
- 3000 Pound-per-Square-Inch crushing pressure in their toothy jaws
- Fast for short bursts of speed, rumored capable of outrunning a horse for 30 feet
- Alligators can go through 2000 to 3000 teeth over the course of their lifetime
- Can hold their breath for up to two hours under water where they lay in wait for unsuspecting prey
- Can go up to one YEAR without eating
- Powerful acid in their stomach enables them to dissolve bone
If you are in the swamps or strolling the southern latitude, remember to watch where you step. They have been a successful predator for more than 200 million years and know how to use those teeth to their advantage.
The upside-down bottle filled with red tinted sugar water hanging from many a backyard tree is the frequent dining spot for fast and furious hummingbirds of all shapes and colors. We never tire of their quick darting movements and the ever-present chirping that is distinctly theirs. We watch them dive bomb bugs and strangers at supersonic speeds and the iridescent throat colors of red, green and blue are out of this world.
Not only are they fun to watch, but they are also keepers of some very far out facts:
- The hummingbird brain is 4.2% if its total body weight – #1 in the world of birds
- Hummingbirds see and hear better than we humans however they have no sense of smell
- Hummingbirds can turn up the intensity of their color as well as turn it down as appropriate
- Hummingbird hearts beat 1260 times per minute, taking 250 breaths during that same period.
- Hummingbird metabolism is about 100 times that of an elephant
- And those fast and furious wings – during a dive they beat at a rate of 200 times per second driving the little rocket upward to 60 miles per hour. Look out below!
Although the tiniest bird in the world, hummingbirds are full of far out facts. And ounce for ounce, I think they are one of the most entertaining denizens of our natural world. Best of all, they come to visit you in your home if you just share a little sugar water.
America has always attracted the talented and adventurous individuals in search of a land of plenty. But we people are not alone as numerous animal and plant species are also making the trip to our fine shores. Unfortunately they are not always the most considerate visitors and many outstay their welcome or unwelcome as is often the case.
Here are a few in along lost of far out characters that have staked a claim in our world:
The Nutria – a 20 pound giant rat from South America that was originally farmed for its fur. Upon escaping to the wilderness they have bred copiously and are now widespread in the wetlands of Maryland.
The Burmese Python – a big slithering snake that attracted many pet owners. However as they grow and grow…and grow, many were released into the wild. They have found a welcome habitat in the Florida Everglades where they are estimated to number in excess of 30,000…and growing…
The Asian Carp – imported to clean catfish ponds in Arkansas, they quickly escaped into the Mississippi River where they happily grow to over four feet and weigh in at over 100 pounds. They compete with native fish for plankton and are forever hungry.
Feral pigs – introduced to the US in the early 20th century for hunting, these squeelers quickly went hog wild and have bred into a population of over 4 million responsible for more then $800 million in property damage each year.
Kudzu – not restricted to the animal kingdom, invaders from abroad include plants of all kinds. Kudzu found its way here from Japan and is inundating waterways around the south spreading at a rate of over 150,000 acres per year.
Not all visitors are welcomed but the immigration continues. What other strange beasties will join these ranks over the coming years? Stay tuned…
We are all familiar with the nightly croaking our hopping friends bring to a forest setting or nearby pond. But can you believe that visitors to the French Alps – aka SNOW – are also listening in on frog serenades? Rana temporaria live and breed 6000 feet up in partially frozen ponds in the Alps.
Only during brief thaws in their pond – sometimes not until June – are conditions right for breeding and egg laying. As with other frog species, males court their female counterparts with resonant ribbits. Imagine the surprise when passing a frozen pond to hear just such a mating call from beneath the ice!
Far Out Snow Frog Facts:
- Cold climate frogs grow slower than their cousins in warmer reaches but live more than twice as long
- Although they grow slower, they grow bigger
- The “mating game” with the male clasping the female from behind can last two or more days
- Eggs are 30% larger in these snowy reaches, bigger tadpoles housed within to have a better chance in harsher surroundings
- These high-altitude frogs have developed a resistance to ultraviolet radiation common in thinner higher altitudes
Cold weather is not for everyone but for a few frogs in the Alps, it is just their cup of tea.