Photographed by Bette Jackson
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Hi, I'm Dr. Jerry Jackson, out with the wild things. The back bone of the Florida peninsula is Lake Wales Ridge, formed of old sand dunes and stretching nearly 100 miles long, four to thirteen miles wide, and reaching nearly 300 feet above sea level. Today, most of this ridge is covered with human communities such as Lake Placid near its southern limit, and mile after mile of citrus groves. During global warming more than two million years ago, sea levels were much higher than today and the only dry lands where Florida is today were Lake Wales Ridge and a few other islands. Wave action and warm winds built dunes of sand several hundred feet high. These provided habitats for a diversity of life that clung to existence in a world isolated from mainland North America. Creatures of Lake Wales Ridge survived isolation by adapting to their harsh environment. Creatures such as the Florida mouse, sand skink, Florida scrub jay, and a rare plant known as the Florida ziziphus: creatures found nowhere else in the world have lived for millennia on Lake Wales Ridge. Today, most of these creatures of the ancient dunes are endangered. They struggle with new isolation as their habitats are converted to human uses.
'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.