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


 

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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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 rare zebra-donkey cross, known as a "zonkey" or "donkra", has made its first appearance at a Chinese zoo since its birth on Sunday. The foal, which has stripy legs and pale stripes down its brown body, had a difficult birth at Xiamen Haicang Zoo. Staff had to turn the rare hybrid upside down to prevent it from choking. The donkra weighed 30kg and was nearly a meter tall at birth. Zoo staff said the female zebra mated naturally with the donkey after the pair were left together in the same enclosure.


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777 E. Princeton Street • Orlando, Florida 32803 • Phone: 407.514.2000 • TTY: 407.514.2005 • Toll Free: 888.OSC.4FUN • Email: gservices@osc.org
  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 • Accessibility