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Symbols of Florida

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State Reptile In 1987, the American alligator (alligator mississippiensis) was designated the official state reptile. It has long been an unofficial symbol of the state as the alligator originally symbolized Florida's untamed lands. Alligators are found throughout Florida and in parts of other southeastern states. They like lakes, swamps, canals, and other wetland habitats. They eat fish, turtles, and many other animals. Alligators should not be fed because this causes them to lose their fear of humans. Feeding is also against Florida law. Alligators are now under controlled management by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. This commission works to preserve the species and the wetland habitats that they and other Florida wildlife inhabit.

State Salt Water Mammal The 1975 Legislature designated the "porpoise, also commonly known as the dolphin," our saltwater mammal. The porpoise or dolphin belongs to the mammalian order cetacea. It is gray or black with a slightly lighter underside. A system of echos - much like sonar - directs them in their travels. Porpoises have no sense of smell but they make up for this loss with sharp eyesight and extraordinary hearing. Historically, sailors took the presence of porpoises near their boats as a sign of good luck.

State Shell In 1969 the Legislature named the horse conch, also known as the giant band shell, the state shell. It is native to the marine waters around Florida and grows up to a length of 24 inches. Young shells have orange color; adult shells have orange openings. The shell is the external skeleton of a soft-bodied animal that inhabits it.

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