Mote Marine’s newest exhibit, The Teeth Beneath, features alligators, a baby crocodile and caimans. Although these reptiles are often feared, the exhibit works to educate the public about them. Visitors are encouraged to be careful, but stay curious.
“We would like our visitors to have a better understanding of is the importance of our watershed environments,” Aquarium assistant vice president Evan Barniskis says. “These are local areas where all the water drains into rivers, lakes and streams, and how important it is to conserve those areas.”
Exploring what animals live in these areas, and what those creatures contribute to the ecosystem, allows visitors to appreciate and, hopefully, work to protect these watersheds.
“When [people] come here and learn about the alligators and caimans, hopefully they gain an appreciation for those animals and the areas they live in,” Barniskis says.
The reptiles for the exhibit were acquired in couple different ways.
“The caiman are an invasive species,” senior Aquarium biologist Brian Siegel explains. “They are from South America.” The caimans were found and removed from the Florida Everglades as hatchlings. Siegel explained that for the most part they stay south, since they are used to warmer climates.
The alligators came from another Association of Zoos-accredited facility in Florida.
As for the crocodile: “We added the crocodile to [our previous] Oh Baby! exhibit, as a small hatchling, to educated the public about how these animals reproduce,” Barniskis says.
The Teeth Beneath is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week, at Mote’s Ann and Alfred E. Goldstein Marine Mammal Research and Rehabilitation Center. Tickets are $19.75 for adults, $18.75 for seniors and $14.75 for children 4-12. Children under three visit free, and Mote Marine members are free as well.
Here's a video preview of the exhibit: