Florida Guide > Miscellaneous
The ‘Sunshine State’ is not only the centre for theme parks like Disney’s Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom, as well as Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, it abounds with flora and fauna, some of which have particular significance as State symbols.
The delicate Zebra Longwing Butterfly is an example of this. It became the State Butterfly in 1966. Its striking zebra striped wings make it easy to identify. Unusually, the adult butterfly eats pollen as well as sipping nectar, and this, apparently enables it to survive for 3 months.
The official State Saltwater Mammal is the porpoise, which is related to dolphins and whales, though is, of course, much smaller. They are sometimes mistaken for dolphins, but have flattened spade-shaped teeth, not the conical teeth of the true dolphin – but not many of us will get that close! They also have a blunter nose than the dolphin which has a longer more pointed snout, or ‘beak. ’ They tend to live in groups of about 10, and eat fish, squid and crustaceans.
The Largemouth Bass is the State Freshwater Fish, and it has a ragged horizontal stripe along its side. It can also be completely black. It is a member of the sunfish family and is not, technically, a bass. It is sometimes called the Green Trout, or the Black Bass. It usually weighs about 1-3lbs, and measures 8-18 inches, but the heaviest known Largemouth Bass weighed in at 22lbs (10. 1 kg) and measured 38 inches long. It feeds on worms, grubs, frogs, insects, snakes and crawfish, and is popular amongst fishermen.
The State Saltwater fish is the Atlantic Sailfish, a huge long fish with a sword-like upper jaw, and a large fan-shaped dorsal fin. The largest one ever caught weighed 116lbs, or 53k, and was 7ft (2. 1m) long. If you take a fishing trip from the Gulf you may well catch one.
However, my preference is finding shells, and the State shell is the Horse Conch. Pronounced ‘conk, ’ this shell has a beautiful pink interior, and a distinctive shape. Conch is a very popular seafood in the Keys, and you will find many restaurants serving this delicacy. There is even a little ‘train’ named after it, the Conch train which takes visitors around the fascinating town of Key West.
Most people will be surprised to learn that the State Animal is the Florida Panther. They are a tawny brown colour on their backs, with a pale grey underneath, and white flecks on their heads, necks and shoulders. Males can grow to 130lbs, and females to 70lbs. This critically endangered species needs much space in order to survive. A breeding group of one male and two to five females needs an astonishing 200 sq miles of habitat, but this is becoming more and more difficult, as Southern Florida is developing fast, and its natural habitat is being eroded. Many panthers are unfortunately run over on the highways of Florida, as they are solitary creatures who tend to travel at night. Sadly these beautiful creatures are becoming more and more rare with less than 70 breeding animals, so we are unlikely to see them.
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Page added on: 9 April 2007
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