Category Archive 'Florida'
01 Jun 2019

11-Foot Alligator Burglarizes Florida Home, Drinks Homeowner’s Wine

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10 Nov 2018

Recounts in Florida and Arizona

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“Why are there never any “newly discovered ballots” in close races that Democrats win? Why are there no “newly discovered ballots” in races that aren’t close? And why is it that all the “newly discovered ballots” in every race always contain a surprisingly disproportionate number of votes for the Democrat candidate?

We all know why.”

— Randy Spencer.

23 Aug 2018

Hybrid Python Supersnake?

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The Miami Herald reports scholarly speculation on the results of python cross-breeding in the Florida Everglades.

What started out as a straightforward genetic study of Florida’s invasive python population has turned up a surprising plot twist: a small number of crossbred Burmese and Indian pythons with the potential to become a kind of Everglades super snake.

For the study, published Sunday in the journal Ecology and Evolution, U.S. Geological Survey researchers examined the tail tissue of 400 snakes captured in South Florida, from the Big Cypress Swamp to the Everglades. While the vast majority appeared to be closely related Burmese pythons — imagine a family reunion packed with first and second cousins — 13 had genetic markers from Indian pythons, a different species that unlike the swamp-loving Burmese snake prefers high, dry ground.

The number is clearly small, but it raises the risk that over time some Everglades snakes could become better suited to a more varied landscape. Scientists call it hybrid vigor.

Python hunter Dusty Crum carries a python caught as part of South Florida Water Management District licensed hunting program in May. The state has been paying a select group of hunters to kill the invasive snakes on state lands since March 2017.

“If the Indian pythons have a wider range, perhaps these Everglades snakes now have that capability,” said lead author and USGS geneticist Margaret Hunter. “It’s quite interesting and quite surprising, but we don’t know the extent it’s in the population.”

RTWT

06 Apr 2017

“Miami English,” the Distinctive South Florida Dialect

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Atlas Obscura:

The Miami dialect is not a second-language accent, like you’d hear from a Cuban immigrant whose first language is Spanish. It is an American English dialect like New York City English, Southern American English, or any other dialect in this country: spoken by native-born Americans who speak English either as a first language or fluently along with the language of their parents. Which doesn’t stop the accent from seeming foreign to others: Carter says that his students will sometimes find themselves in a neighboring county, only to be asked what country they’re from.

There’s a whole bunch of things that set Miami English apart from other dialects. Much of it comes from Spanish: words or sounds that are pronounced in a certain way in Spanish will eventually show up in English. An easy one is the word “salmon,” which in Miami is pronounced with the L: “sall-mon.” That comes directly from the Spanish word for the fish, which is, well, salmón. (In Spanish, all consonants make one sound and one sound only.*)

But that letter L gets even weirder. It turns out Spanish and English have different pronunciations of the letter, which are referred to as “light L” and “dark L.” English actually has both of them: a light L is found in words starting with L, like the word “light.” A dark L is found sometimes at the ends of words, as in the word “feel.” Say that out loud: can you hear how, in “feel,” it sounds almost like “fee-yul”? That “ull-” sound as the first part of the L sound, that’s a dark L, and it’s made with a slightly different shape of your tongue in your mouth. In Miami, all L sounds are dark, so a word like “literally” sounds more like “ull-iterally.”

Vowels also show some impact from Spanish. Elsewhere in the country, English speakers have a tendency to “front” some vowels. “Front” and “back” refers to the position of your tongue in your mouth, so “ee” is a front vowel, whereas “oh” and “ooh” are back vowels. In the South and Mid-Atlantic, English speakers will move their back vowels a little to the front, so “boat” sounds like “behh-oht.” But in Spanish, that’s absolutely not done, and that carries over to Miami English. Keeping “oh” in the back isn’t unique to Miami, but it is unique to Miami within the Southern U.S.

Another vowel thing: much of the U.S. does this weird thing with the “ah” sound in words like “hand.” When that vowel comes before a nasal consonant—M or N—it becomes kind of nasal and more complex, turning into more like “hay-and.” Miamians, though, don’t do that, so “hand” has the exact same vowel as “cat.” Try saying it out loud. It feels strange, right? Almost British-y.

Miami English also has lots and lots of calques, which are loan phrases: essentially direct translations of Spanish phrases. In Atlanta, New York, and Seattle—actually, basically anywhere besides Miami—you get out of a car. In Miami, you get down from a car, because “down from the car” is a direct translation from the Spanish, bajar del carro. There are dozens of these: in Miami you don’t get in line or wait in line, you make a line. You don’t get married to somebody, you get married with them. When talking about money, you don’t say “five ninety-nine” for $5.99; you say “five with ninety-nine.” If you’re not up to anything much, you might say “I’m eating shit,” the basic equivalent of “I’m not doing shit.” “Some of those English calques are based on Cuban Spanish, and my strong suspicion is that kids are learning the local variety of English unaware of the sources of the loan words,” says Carter.

The verbs “come” and “go” are also different in English and Spanish, and thus different in Miami English. “In English, the verbs ‘come’ and ‘go’ are really peculiar,” says Carter. “If you invite me to your house, I’ll say ‘I’m coming over now,’ even though what I meant to say is ‘I’m going over now.’” These words are based on “deiksis,” the relationship between the speaker and listener. Theoretically, “come” should mean heading toward the speaker or listener, and “go” should mean heading away from the speaker or listener. Come to where I am, go to this other location. But in English, it’s not that simple; we often get those totally wrong. Spanish speakers, and Miami English speakers, never get those wrong. An invitation to a birthday party in Miami might say, “Go celebrate Maria’s 10th birthday party at the zoo.” Sounds weird, but is actually correct: neither the sender nor the receiver of the invitation is at the zoo, so it should be “go.”

One of the hardest to nail down is in the actual rhythm of speech. Spanish is syllable-timed, meaning that each syllable is spoken for the same length of time. English is not; it is stress-timed, so certain syllables, especially one-syllable words, are shorter than others. (Think about “for,” “and,” and pronouns like “he” and “she.”) Miami English isn’t exactly syllable-timed, but it’s more regular than other English dialects, which makes it sound…different, somehow. “I have heard parodies of Latinos, or Latino characters who are putting on being Latino, where you’ll find them speaking in a very fast way which gives that impression,” says Carter. It’s not that Spanish-speakers speak more quickly, just that their timing is different than English. We don’t quite know how it’s different, but speaking very quickly can sort of trigger our conception of Spanish rhythms.

Miami English is not, though, the same as other Spanish-influenced dialects of English, like Chicano English in Southern California. Some of those calques, for example, are specific to Cuba or the Caribbean and not found in Mexico. One of the most telling examples of a Southern Californian accent is turning “ing” and “ink” endings into “eeng” and “eenk,” so “thinking” becomes “theenkeeng.” These are not found at all in Miami.

Miami English isn’t only spoken by Miami Latinos, though they are the predominant group that has this dialect. Carter has found that many Anglo whites in Miami will use this dialect—but not always. Miami English coexists with Spanglish and flat-out Spanish in Miami, and speakers will often switch between those depending on who they’re speaking to. A white teenager might use the Miami English dialect with friends, and a Northeast-like accent with parents—after all, there’s a good chance the teen’s parents hail from the North.

A major part of what makes Miami English special is how quickly and thoroughly immigrant groups have come to dominate the city. In, say, New York, even the biggest immigrant groups—Italian, Irish, Puerto Rican, Dominican, Chinese—are still comparatively minor parts of the whole. But Cubans, and then other Spanish-speakers, became the dominant force in Miami so quickly that, essentially, stranger calques and pronunciations and rhythms have been free to become the norm.

Read the whole thing.

04 Mar 2017

A Good Day Fishing

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16 Jan 2017

Circle B Bar Reserve, Polk County, Florida

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Yesterday, an estimated 12-footer.

09 Dec 2016

Can’t Eat Just One

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16-foot female (an invasive species record) had the remains of three deer in its system.

Sporting Classics:

Burmese pythons are the scourge of the Florida Everglades, eating anything they can fit inside their cavernous jaws. They’re known to eat deer when the opportunity arises, but one invasive serpent has officially set a world record: three deer in its gut at the same time.

In 2013 wildlife officials discovered the remains of a doe and two fawns in the belly of a 15.6-foot Burmese python. The snake was captured and later euthanized as part of a scientific study conducted by researchers from Pennsylvania’s Dickinson College, with the results of their findings being published earlier this year in the scientific journal BioInvasions Records.

“A comparative examination of bone, teeth, and hooves extracted from the fecal contents revealed that this snake consumed three white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus),” wrote lead researcher Scott Boback. “This is the first report of an invasive Burmese python containing the remains of multiple white-tailed deer in its gut.”

The paper reports that the snake likely ate the three deer at different times over an 87-day period. The presence of special teeth only present in fawns helped researchers identify the younger deer, while another tooth pointed to an animal at least 12 months in age. The growth rate of deer hooves ultimately helped the researchers determine that three deer—one older than 12 months, one 24 to 30 days old, and one roughly two weeks old—had been eaten.

Other than the hooves and teeth, researchers found a skull fragment, bits of vertebrae and appendages, and some fur, but scant else. A python is capable of digesting bone, so the remains had to be carefully examined to determine what was contained in the snake’s fecal material.

In the end, the researchers believe the snake hid from its prey in some body of water, then when they came down to drink it attacked with its backward-curving teeth and began constricting them. While pythons have been present in the Everglades since at least the 1990s, deer simply haven’t adapted to this new danger.

“Because the largest snakes native to southern Florida are not capable of consuming even mid-sized mammals, pythons likely represent a novel predatory threat to white-tailed deer in these habitats,” the researchers wrote.

Read the whole thing.

17 Jun 2016

Kuntzman Bleats Again

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Kuntzman
Gersh Kuntzman

The New York Daily News’ great mind, the same Gersh Kuntzman who recently suffered from PTSD as the result of test firing an AR-15, waxes indignant over the demise of alligators from the Disneyworld lagoon, who were dispatched by the local authorities in the aftermath of one of them killing a visiting two-year-old.

Did something just go wrong? Well, kill all the animals!

That remains the standard stupid human reaction whenever our control of nature goes awry.

Like on Tuesday night after a 2-year-old was apparently eaten by an alligator on an artificial beach near Disney World. The response? Local officials killed four gators.

No disrespect to the suffering family, but let me get this straight: We built a man-made ecosystem in the natural environment of a known predator, stocked it with fish for our amusement, built a hotel with a beach on its banks, let kids wade into the water, express shock when one gets eaten — and then we kill the animal for doing exactly what animals do?

Obviously, in Kutzman’s twisted worldview, Barack Obama ought to be conducting an apology tour of the Everglades, expressing America’s regret to saurians for imperialist occupation of their swamps and deploring the species-ist view that human life is more valuable than reptilian dining.

15 Jun 2016

Alligator Takes Two-Year-Old at Disney World Lagoon

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DisneyLagoon
Man-made lagoon at Disney World where a two-year-old boy was dragged into by an alligator yesterday.

New York Post:

The 2-year-old boy who was dragged by an alligator on the shores of Disney’s upscale Grand Floridian Resort & Spa remained missing early Wednesday — as authorities continued their desperate search for the tragic tot.

Jeff Williamson of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said additional personnel would be deployed to assist in the search-and-rescue operation.

“Right now we’re going to bring in some fresh eyes and continue with the search,” Williamson said, the Orlando Sentinel reported. “Prepare for the worst, hope for the best.”

The boy, who was vacationing with his family of five from Nebraska, was on the shoreline of the Seven Seas Lagoon on Tuesday night when the gator — estimated to be between 4 and 7 feet long — attacked him.

His dad tried to pry him loose from the animal but was unable to, Orange County Sheriff Jerry Demings said.

“As a father, as a grandfather, we’re going to hope for the best in these circumstances, but based on my 35 years of law enforcement experience, we know we have some challenges ahead of us,” Demings said, the paper reported.

Whole thing.

31 May 2016

“Stand Next to Him For Perspective!”

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Palmetto Golf Course, Plametto, Florida, posted May 30. Estimated length: 14-15 feet.

21 May 2016

Nile Crocodiles Found in Florida

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NileCrocodile
Crocodylus niloticus

Orlando Sentinal:

Researchers have confirmed that three Nile crocodiles were captured near Miami, and they say it’s possible more of the man-eating reptiles are still out there, although no one can say for sure.

The big question now: How did they get to Florida?

“They didn’t swim from Africa,” University of Florida herpetologist Kenneth Krysko said. “But we really don’t know how they got into the wild.”

Krysko and his co-authors just published a paper showing that DNA testing proved the three animals captured in 2009, 2011 and 2014 are Nile crocs, a species whose males grow to over 16 feet long and weigh upward of 1,600 pounds.

Nile crocs are believed to be responsible for up to 200 fatalities annually in their native sub-Saharan Africa.

Maybe they’ll eat those Burmese Pythons.

14 May 2016

Humans Arrived in North America 1000 Years Before Clovis

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FloridaMastodonTusk

Underwater archaeological investigations in a Florida panhandle pond seem to have established firmly a pre-Bering-Straits-Ice-Bridge human presence in Florida much older than the Clovis Point Culture long supposed to be the oldest.

Washington Post:

The project involved years of painstaking excavation in the Aucilla River, a slow-moving, coffee-colored waterway shaded by cypress trees and inhabited by alligators. Underwater archaeologists dug up and dated layer after layer of sediment from the river bottom, sifting through each patch of dirt for evidence that humans had once been there.

They uncovered what co-author Tom Stafford calls a “chronological layer cake.” More than 70 samples of ancient organic material taken from the site and radiocarbon dated at Stafford’s lab showed that each layer was slightly older than the one before it. They prove that nothing had disturbed or mixed up the sediments as they were laid down over time.

By the time archaeologists reached the 14,500-year-old stratum, they began to find objects they say could only have come from humans: five sharpened rocks that were carried in from elsewhere in the region, and a double-sided stone knife, or biface, that would have been among the most advanced technologies of the time. The team then re-examined the mastodon tusk found by Webb and Dunbar (who was also part of this excavation) and determined that it was most likely butchered by humans.

“It’s really exciting,” said Jessi Halligan, an archaeologist at Florida State University and Waters’s fellow principal investigator. “We have these unambiguous cultural artifacts found in an intact geological stratum that dates to more than 1,500 years older than Clovis. That’s why it’s a big deal. That’s why we have to revisit our theory for how the Americas were colonized.”

Read the whole thing.

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Sciences Advances, Pre-Clovis occupation 14,550 years ago at the Page-Ladson site, Florida, and the peopling of the Americas, Abstract:

Stone tools and mastodon bones occur in an undisturbed geological context at the Page-Ladson site, Florida. Seventy-one radiocarbon ages show that ~14,550 calendar years ago (cal yr B.P.), people butchered or scavenged a mastodon next to a pond in a bedrock sinkhole within the Aucilla River. This occupation surface was buried by ~4 m of sediment during the late Pleistocene marine transgression, which also left the site submerged. Sporormiella and other proxy evidence from the sediments indicate that hunter-gatherers along the Gulf Coastal Plain coexisted with and utilized megafauna for ~2000 years before these animals became extinct at ~12,600 cal yr B.P. Page-Ladson expands our understanding of the earliest colonizers of the Americas and human-megafauna interaction before extinction.

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