Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Biodiversity in South Carolina

As a native South Carolinian, I pride myself in anything and everything related to the Palmetto State. The following are some of my state's official animals. Whether by air or land or sea, they are all marvelous creatures.

Perhaps the most fragile of all the species here is the loggerhead sea turtle. Its scientific name is Cattera cattera, and they are distinguished by their reddish-brown carapace, a.k.a. the upper shell. Loggerheads are most known for their annual migration to coastal beaches to lay their eggs in the summertime, which typically lasts from mid-May to mid-August.

However, they have been a designated endangered species since July 28, 1978, and their nesting populations have decreased by 3% every year since 1980. This is due to poachers and other forms of wildlife killing off newborn loggerheads before and during their migration from the nest to the ocean. It is now both a state and federal offense to tamper with a loggerhead’s nest, 90% of which are in Florida. These are big animals that can live as long as, if not longer than, humans with a volatile future. Next time you get the chance to see them up close, look in awe but don’t touch.

The Eastern tiger swallowtail, which is the official state butterfly of South Carolina, is as colorful as its wings. Its scientific name is Pterourus glaucus, and they can be found all over the southeastern United States in various settings, from meadows to local parks, feeding off a variety of wild nature and garden plants.

Both sexes are differentiated by the color of their wings. Males tend to have a yellow and black design while females have predominantly black wings. These particular butterflies are known for their aesthetic beauty and many people plant flowers nearby just to entice the swallowtails. Their presence is both attractive and constructive for all.

Then there's the Carolina wren, the small bird with a big voice. Its scientific name is Thryothorus ludovicianus, and theirs is a grandiose lifestyle. These wrens are typically seen in pairs, monogamous to each other when breeding and the males "employ one of the loudest songs per volume of birds."

They seldom leave their habitat long term because they are loyal to their home base, no matter where it is. Like the aforementioned swallowtail, Carolina wrens are commonplace throughout the southeast. They stay within those confines because they can’t survive harsh winters up north and won't dare cross their own immutable boundaries. They know what they want and how to get it, which is punctuated by their shrill, harmonious cry.

Lastly, there's the white-tailed deer, a graceful, naturally shy creature. Its scientific name is Odocoileus virginianus, and they have a unique lineage to themselves. For starters, these deer are not indigenous to South Carolina or even the southeastern U.S. In addition, these animals are frequent targets of hunters, a threat none of the above species have to deal with. However, there are approximately 750,000 of these deer in South Carolina alone, and this particular population has been stabilized since the mid-1990s after years of rapid growth.

But whether or not they are hunted, people have taken a liking to these deer from both their natural setting and their placement as an ornament for some. The fact that white-tailed deer can be both appreciated and assassinated shows the two extremes of human emotion when confronted with raw, natural beauty.

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