American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
Location: Cross Creek
Photos (above): © 2004 Jeffrey Berger
Florida is the birthplace of John Archibald Wheeler, the theoretical physicist who first coined the term “black hole.” What is the relationship between back holes and alligators, you ask? As this correspondent has often observed, Floridians have a morbid and peculiar fascination with large predatory reptiles, and black holes are the ultimate gators in the Universe. Black holes are long dead stars at the center of galaxies, so named because nothing - not even light - can escape their gravitational pull. Yet, black holes represent the ying and yang of cosmic death and rebirth. Our sun, the planets, and the elements of life are born from the detritus of long-dead stars.
The relationship between black holes and galaxies is like the bond between gators and birds. Nesting birds know instinctively that the patient and silent alligator offers a definitive defense against tree-climbing predators such as possums and raccoons. In exchange, alligators know with equal instinct that tasty fledglings drop from treetops. Gators may be fearsome predators but they also make welcome protectors. To protect the breeding colony, nesting birds prefer the company of gators. Thus, gators play an vital role in the ecology of our wetlands.