Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. Almost everywhere you look along Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, you can see red mangrove: the low, smooth, reddish-barked, spreading tree that seems to perch spider-like on dozens of gracefully arched prop roots at its base. Prop roots often branch as they reach down, stilt-like into brackish waters of the estuary. Prop roots of a red mangrove help hold the tree in place against tidal surges and help the tree gain oxygen. They reduce shoreline erosion and contribute to the formation of new land. Prop roots provide hiding places for young fishes and shellfishes while trapping decaying leaves and other organic matter that nourishes the mangrove community. They also provide avenues to food at low tide and safety at high tide for the angular periwinkle snail and hermit crabs. Islands created by mangroves are attractive to nesting herons and egrets who find safety from predators and a home with food nearby.
'With the Wild Things' is produced at the Whitaker Center in the College of Arts and Sciences at Florida Gulf Coast University. For 'The Wild Things', I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson.