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If “Shark Week” has made you fearful of jumping into the ocean, you might want to consider the dangers of tromping through American wetlands. Over the past decade, more people perished at the mouths of alligators than those of sharks in this country. Nine people have died from U.S. – based shark attacks, while 13 were mortal victims of alligator attacks.

Meanwhile, American crocodiles have never killed or even bitten anyone in their native Florida, but they certainly have the chops to do it. Three decades ago, their numbers had dwindled to about 300. Thanks to conservation efforts, they’ve moved off the Endangered Species list and now boast a current population close to 1,800.

In Florida, better enforcement of wildlife protection laws and suburban sprawl increase the chances of crossing paths with a croc or gator. So how do you take precautions to avoid a grisly crocodilian encounter? Both alligators and crocodiles are opportunists. They aren’t likely to go chasing you down on the poolside patio. Actually, if they’re out on land, they generally aren’t looking for prey.

However, if either reptile starts hissing or snapping at you, get out of his way, and if you can’t do that, call 911 and the operator will patch you through to a wildlife hotline. On a rare chance if you find yourself or a loved one clenched in the teeth of a crocodilian, experts say fight with all you’re might. Smack them and punch them in the nose, eyes, and head, and fight them with everything you have. Most of the time they’ll let go and move off.

At the Science Center, you can get up close and personal with gators in a much safer way.  In NatureWorks, you’ll find several baby alligators in our swamp.  And you can check out our live alligator feedings every day.  Check program schedules for details!

Gator


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A giant meteorite has been found in the mountains of China. Embedded into the Altai Mountains in China’s Xinjiang Uygur province, the large rock is estimated to have a mass between 25-30 tons, says Sky and Telescope magazine. This discovery could be the country’s largest known grounded meteorite, as well as one of the largest meteorites found on Earth.

The site was investigated by a small group, led by Baolin Zhang, a meteorite specialist at the Beijing Planetarium. What they found was an oddly shaped iron meteorite sticking out of the ground, measuring about 7.5 feet long and half as wide. This is a very exciting discovery for the scientific world. The article on explains that “most meteorites were formed close to [about] 4.6 billion years ago, when the solar system was formed, any newly discovered meteorites (regardless of their size) have the potential to provide scientists with some unique insights into the formation and earliest history of our solar system."

Another iron meteorite was found in 1898 in the same region. Research is still being conducted to see if the two meteorites are related. It is still undecided on how the meteorite will be removed from its current location to be further analyzed. The largest known meteorite can be seen below. It was found in Namibia and has a mass of about 60 tons.

Meteorite


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FoxNews.com asks the question, “Is there a little Fred Flintstone in you?” Genetic analysis over the past decade suggests the answer is yes. In 2010, researchers were able to sequence the Neanderthal genome, as well as to the DNA of existing humans who are not from sub-Saharan Africa (including Australia). What the scientists found was evidence that the Neanderthals are to thank for part of our X chromosome, haplotype. Scientists were able to trace our DNA back about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago, the period when modern humans reportedly left Africa. Neanderthals left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago and evolved mostly in what are now France, Spain, Germany and Russia. Neanderthals went “extinct” about 30,000 years ago when they were absorbed by modern human population. Despite the time gap, genetic material from Neanderthals means the two populations interbred.

DiscoveryNews.com explained, “Neanderthals possessed the gene for language and had sophisticated music, art and tool craftsmanship skills, so they must have not been all that unattractive to modern humans at the time.” The research, published in the July issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution, is the result of work by an international team of researchers led by Damian Labuda of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal, and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center. The group is continuing their research on the Neanderthal and human connection, but for now, their findings have them saying, “yabba-dabba-do!” Here are some interesting facts about Neanderthals.

X-relative


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NASA's last space shuttle, Atlantis, has left International Space Station and is back home. Their mission was the 135th and last flight for the program, which began in 1981. Over the past 30 years, the space shuttles held more than just humans and the occasional animals. A Star Wars lightsaber, Buzz Lightyear figurine, and even the Mets’ home plate have all been space travelers. See a list of the top 9 weirdest things that flew into space.

BuzzLightyear


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As Atlantis landed at the Kennedy Space Station this morning, many Orlando locals were able to hear the loud sonic boom as the shuttle re-entered Earth’s atmosphere. The shuttle’s twin sonic booms - caused by shock waves at its nose and tail - are a result of the orbiter traveling faster than the speed of sound. Below is a diagram explaining how sonic booms occur and where they were heard:

ShuttleSonicBoom

 

The following YouTube clip is a recording of the Sonic Boom heard in Naples, FL.


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By Marcus Pfister

A beautiful, conceited fish lives in the deep part of the ocean. His scales sparkle and shine as he swims through the ocean - alone. The other fish attempt to befriend him, but he ignores them until one day when a small blue fish approaches him. The small blue fish tells the Rainbow Fish how beautiful his scales are, and asks for one of them. Horrified, the Rainbow Fish refuses and swims on, puzzling aloud over his loneliness.

A crab directs him to an octopus, whose advice is simple: give away his scales to the other fish and he will be happy. After some thought, and a second request from the small blue fish, the Rainbow Fish takes the octopus's advice and finds friendship and happiness. This is a great book for children to learn about the importance of sharing.

the_rainbow_fish


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A discovery from Montana’s Hell Creek Formation leads researchers to believe the Triceratops may have been the last dinosaur standing. At 65 million years old, the rhinoceros-like, three-horned Triceratops would be the youngest dinosaur known to man. The dino’s age falls into the Cretaceous-Tertiary (K-T) period where scientists believe all non-avian, or non bird-like, dinos became extinct. This finding could prove the “3-meter gap” theory false.

The 3-meter gap theory suggests dinosaurs gradually died out before the K-T event 65 million years ago. Those who support this theory believe a meteor couldn’t have killed all the dinosaurs at once because there is a segment free from any fossils. The recent discovery at Hell Creek seems to prove that theory wrong. According to the article on Discovery News, The Hell Creek Triceratops “was not only found within that 3-meter region, but it also exists at the upper reaches of it, proving that at least one dinosaur and presumably more were still alive when the meteorite blasted into Chicxulub, Mexico.” Thus, the opposing theory to the 3-meter gap suggests dinosaurs went extinct in masses because a meteor struck their homeland.

Researchers are still discovering fossils of small mammals that lived after the KT event in the Montana area. The mammals, including hoofed condylarths and rodent like multiuberculates, had to adapt and relocate after the dinosaurs went extinct. Why certain creatures survived the K-T extinction may never be known but science suggests their diet had something to do with it. Dinosaur extinction is a mystery waiting to be solved. Archeologists and researchers are continually looking to solve the case, so discoveries like the Triceratops in Montana are helpful pieces added to the puzzle.

Triceratops


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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]
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