Exhibit Hall

Now Open on Level 1

This hands-on exhibit hall celebrates the richness of the natural world, with a special focus on the diverse ecosystems of Central Florida. Visitors discover the insects, plants and animals of coral reefs, salt marshes, mangrove swamps and other Florida environments. They learn how living and non-living things interact with each other and their environment.

The dramatic centerpiece of NatureWorks is Florida’s Habitats, a glimpse into the natural world of Central Florida. In this realistic exhibit area, visitors explore the distinctive environments of Sand Pine Scrub, Cypress Swamp, Pine Flatwoods and Sinkhole Lake. There are also ample opportunities for guests to encounter live animals during regularly scheduled presentations.

  • Observe a typical cypress swamp, complete with live alligators
  • See how sea turtles make their nest at the sandy beach
  • Discover the intricate system of roots at the mangrove swamp
  • Watch how bees build their hive, care for young and gather nectar at the BeeHive Encounter


 

Have you ever gazed up at the sky to see a colorful flock of Bachman’s warblers migrating south for the winter? Have you ever swum in the sea only to see a Caribbean monk seal playing freely? What about seeing an eastern Cougar stalking through the woods or a Goff’s pocket gopher digging a tunnel on the coast?

I bet you haven’t as these animals are extinct, gone forever and as of January 2011. There are however, more than 1,170 species on the brink of joining them.

Below are a few of Florida’s most wanted animals. They’re wanted not for being bad natured but because they’re so endangered and we would like them to stay around for future generations to enjoy.

The Florida Panther (Puma concolor coryi)

Panther

Image Source: The Resilient Earth

Perhaps one of Florida’s most famous animals, serving as the state’s mascot, the Florida panther is also one of its most endangered. Their numbers have been dwindling toward extinction since the 1960s due to loss of habitat, collisions with vehicles, and genetic defects. Many people fear these big cats, which can grow 6-7ft. long, but they should know there are no recorded incidents of a panther attacking a person. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, before the Europeans arrived there were once more than 1,360 panthers in the wild but now there are only an estimated 100 left in south Florida.

Ivory Billed Woodpecker (Campephilus principalis)

Woodpecker

Image Source: Wikipedia

A bird so endangered, scientists are unsure whether or not it’s already extinct, the Ivory billed woodpecker has been reportedly spotted in the woods of North Florida, the cypress swamps of southwest Florida and swamp areas of central Florida. Is the bird extinct or elusive? Only time needed to repopulate and scientific searches will tell.

West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)

Manatee

Image Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

These gentle giants grace the freshwater springs and costal waterways of Florida. Even though you would think living below the surface would protect them, they still face danger in the form of boating accidents, cold weather and pollution. Manatees are vital to our Florida ecosystems as they help prevent aquatic plant overgrowth and bring thousands of tourists to our state a year. Estimates place only a couple thousand West Indian manatees left in the wild, with the largest population residing here in Florida. These creatures have been around for millions of years and with caution, we can keep it that way.

These are just a few of the many Florida animals on the verge of disappearing forever. Luckily, there is still hope for the future thanks to rehabilitation and breeding programs. You too can help these animals by becoming more aware of threats to their lives and by supporting programs that ensure their survival. A few such programs include “adopting” your favorite animal for as little as $25, purchasing license plates where a portion of the proceeds go toward habitat protection and adding your name to online petitions. Together we can ensure these beautiful creatures survive and thrive for future generations to enjoy.

 



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Ligers. Grolar bears. Camas. They sound like things out of a fantasy novel but do indeed exist. Here’s an explanation:

Ligers

Born of a male lion and a female tiger, there are only a few ligers in the world. The average liger weighs more than 900 lbs. and stands about 12 ft. tall leading them to be deemed the largest big cats. Although featuring more lion-like features, the liger enjoys swimming like a tiger. They can eat up to 100lbs. a day but due to obesity issues are typically fed 25-35 lbs. with meals ranging from venison to pork. There are also smaller tigons, which are born of a male tiger and female lion.

Liger

 

Grolar Bears

Due to melting ice caps, animals that were once separated are being moved closer together, in this case grizzly and polar bears. Grolars have the head and paws of a grizzly with the white fur of a polar bear. This pairing worries scientists as it is feared the threatened polar bear gene pool will be compromised.

Grolar

 

Camas

The cama is a cross between a male camel and a female llama. Due to size differences their creation came about through artificial insemination in an effort to get the strength of a camel with the wool of a llama. As you can see from the above picture, camas do not have a popular camel hump.

Cama

 

There are many other types of hybrids including wolphins [whale with dolphins], zebroids [zebras with horses], and leopons [leopards with lions]. Some hybrids such as the grolar bear occur naturally whereas other such as camas often lead to ethical debates. Is it ethical to create a species that can change the gene pool of its predecessors and lead to their extinction or is it just the next stage in evolution? What do you think?


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Suppose you’re out in the Everglades watching a six-foot alligator when out of the reeds springs an even bigger python that suddenly latches on to it and attempts to devour it whole! The non-venomous Burmese python’s natural habitat may be Southeast Asia but due to human intervention these reptilian creatures are coming to the Everglades near you! It became a startling phenomenon a decade ago not only due to owners releasing their pets and accidental escapes but breeding among the freed pythons as well. A female Burmese python can lay up to 100 eggs with an average of about 36 eggs. That’s a lot of pythons from even one snake! Especially for a breed that can grow up to 23 feet long and weigh upwards of 200 lbs.

According to a recently published study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, their arrival has heralded a severe decrease in the population of several native mammals including raccoons and opossums. Researchers are having a more difficult time monitoring the effects of the python’s presence on endangered animals such as the Florida panther. Even if they don’t interact with the panthers, they are still affecting them by consuming their food source of small mammals.

It’s difficult to estimate how many pythons are slithering free throughout the one and a half million acres of the Everglades. In an interview with PBS, Shawn Heflick, President of the Central Florida Herpetological Society, says he believes “that the true number is closer to between 5,000 to 10,000 animals. The 100,000 plus numbers are inflated and sensationalized by politicians and some of the local media, but no one has the real answer to exactly how many are out there.”

Park personnel have taken preventative measures with Ivegot1.org where visitors can report sightings and learn about the species as well as offensive measures such as using detection dogs to sniff out the snakes. Recently the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made it illegal to import these pythons into the U.S. as well as transport them across state lines. Even with these efforts only time will tell as to whether the situation can be contained.

Python

Image Source: The Nature Conservancy.


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Dolphins are one of the world’s most beloved animals, and now we are introduced to a new species discovered in Australia called Burrunan dolphins. The strangest thing about this discovery is that these dolphins were found in Melbourne, the second most populated city of Australia. After DNA tests were done on these bottlenose dolphin species, scientists were so surprise at the results that they ran the test again.

To their shock, the Burrunan dolphins were genetically very different from the two recognized bottlenose dolphin species. The Burrunan dolphins not only look very different from the other bottlenose species, but they also have a more curved dorsal fin, a stubbier beak, and a unique “tricoloration”- including dark gray, mid gray, and white.

How did researchers miss this species of dolphins for so long? In 1915, the Burrunan dolphins were almost discovered, but scientist concluded that the differences between the common bottlenose dolphins were due to one being a male and the other a female.  As a result of new technology and studies, researchers today were able to provide evidence making a strong case for this new species.

These species are now listed as endangered because there were very few Burrunan dolphins found, approximately 100. Kate Charlton-Robb, a marine biologist at Australia’s Monash University says "Given the small size of the population, it’s really crucial that we make an effort to protect them." Hopefully these beautiful new species of dolphins will be around for a while with the efforts of protecting them.

Burrunan_Dolphin


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Did you know that a lake right outside of Orlando holds one of the largest population of alligators in the United States? Over 10,000 alligators live in Lake Jessup, a lake that many pass over daily. At over 16,000 acres, Over 100,000 years old, Lake Jessup is home to many of Florida's most famous wildlife, but none more intriguing than the American Alligator. Although these alligators lay still and appear to be sleeping, swimming in this lake wouldn't be the best idea.

In the 1980’s, Lake Jesup it lost some of its appeal due to tremendous development in the area. However, surrounding residents came together to restore Lake Jesup back to its natural beauty. It is now a large attraction with airboat rides, hiking, and a wilderness area devoted to preserve central Florida’s ecosystem. Lake Jesup is a unique and wonderful place full of alligators, fish and all sorts of birds that add to Florida’s beauty.

Lake_Jessup


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Orlando Science Center • 777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: [email protected]
  Orlando Science Center is supported by United Arts of Central Florida, host of power2give.org/centralflorida and the collaborative Campaign for the Arts.
This project is funded in part by Orange County Government through the Arts & Cultural Affairs Program. Privacy Policy