Wild Florida–Eastern Glass Lizard

One of the most interesting of Florida’s reptiles are the Glass Lizards of the genus Ophisaurus. These long, legless reptiles are frequently mistaken for snakes, and even the scientific name of the genus is translated as “snake lizards”. The Ophisaurs, however, are actually lizards.

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The Mobile Quarantine Facility: Protecting the Earth From Moon Bugs

It was a nightmare scenario for NASA’s moon mission planners–a human triumph turning into tragedy as space-borne moon germs, brought back by astronauts, swept the Earth and killed all terrestrial life with a lethal unstoppable disease. To prevent it, NASA developed a Space Age motor home trailer for astronauts called the Mobile Quarantine Facility.

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The Mobile Quarantine facility, on display at the Smithsonian Udvar-Hazy Center

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The American Lion (Yes, America Once Had Wild Lions)

If you could have wandered across the United States in the area that is now the Great Plains 15,000 years ago, you may have mistaken it for the African Serengeti. Elephants, camels, horses, cheetahs . . . all would be roaming across the vast savannahs of North America.  And the most impressive of all would have been the North American Lion.

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Fossilized skull of Panthera atrox, the North American Lion, on display at the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History.

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Florida’s Invaders — Red-Eared Slider

Florida is the land of invasive species. Because of our status as a center for the importing of exotic pets and houseplants from overseas, and our neo-tropical climate, we have been invaded by everything from kudzu plants to Burmese pythons. One of our most common invasives is a brightly-colored aquatic turtle called the Red-Eared Slider. Extremely common in the pet trade, the Slider has been introduced around the world, prompting some biologists to label it as “The Reptilian Norway Rat”. It is listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as one of the “100 Most Invasive Species in the World”.

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