Saturday, March 01, 2008

South Florida Museum in Bradenton

The first thing we saw as we walked into the South Florida Museum was a huge mastadon skeleton that was found in Florida. Walking from the sunshine outside into the darkened gallery was a stark contrast. It was quiet, except for the songs of birds and other woodland sounds. You get the feeling that you've stepped into another world. On the other side of the gallery is a diorama of a paleo Indian hunting a bison. We continued walking through the exhibits of prehistoric human and animal artifacts. Another diorama shows a seaside community of Indians where you can hear people chatting, children playing, and ocean sounds.

Next we went to the Bishop Planetarium for a presentation on how to identify stars and constellations. Now I know why I'm having a hard time finding the Big Dipper. The lights around Tampa obscure a lot of stars. We used to live in the countryside in Michigan. The North Star is also harder to find, because it is closer to the horizon in Florida than it is in Michigan. Up north the North Star appears directly over head.

It was time to feed the manatees when we left the planetarium. We walked upstairs through a Florida marshland scene with a one room house. There was a Florida panther in the marsh and I was surprised at how small it was. I expected the panthers to be as big as tigers. We left the marsh to walk through a hallway with an under water scene. It included a cross section of the ocean floor showing creatures that lived in the sand. On the other side we found the Parker Manatee Aquarium.

Feeding time is presentation time. The resident manatee is Snooty, who was born and raised in captivity. His tank buddies are rescued manatees that will eventually be returned to the wild. Manatees are air breathing mammals that live in the water. They are often injured by boats.

Snooty is sticking his head out of the water to get the attention of the lady doing the talking and feeding. She is feeding the manatees heads of romaine lettuce and fielding questions from the audience. Occasionally Snooty playfully puts his fins up on the edge of the tank. Someone asked if the manatees had bad breath. She said it was not as bad as dog's breath, but that you don't want to be around when they have gas. They are vegetarians. Big ones. Lots of veggies can generate lots of gas. We didn't smell anything evil while we were there.

The manatees have huge bodies and small heads. We walked downstairs to get to the window to watch the manatees underwater. The expressions on their faces reminded me of dogs or teddy bears. There were all kinds of toys in the pool. At feeding time food becomes the toy of the moment.

We left the South Florida Museum late in the afternoon and went to Anna Maria Island to go for a walk on the beach.

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