Open 9 am - 5 pm
An American Alligator eye and top of head pops up above the waterline.

Islands and Lakes

Island and lakes are both unique ecosystems—islands because they're isolated from mainland communities, and lakes because the water stands still. Because of this, they're filled with beauty found nowhere else—from alligators and turtles to lookdowns and cichlids. A walk through Island and Lakes will take you through environments, and animals, found around the world!

  • An aracari bird, with its long, banana-shaped bill sits patiently on a staff member's hand during an animal floor program.

    Discover

    Keep an eye out for animal presentations in Islands and Lakes.

  • A juvenile Barbour's map turtle peers interestedly at the camera, the sharp ridges at the top of its shell's dome distinctive.

    Find

    Get close to a group of American alligators and discover the unique pattern of the map turtle.

  • An electric blue cichlid swims near a pebbled habitat floor.

    Learn

    Find out more about why cichlids thrive in Africa's lakes.

Ecosystems bursting with life

Islands and lakes are unique ecosystems that can be both isolated and cosmopolitan. The great African rift lakes sequestered a few kinds of cichlids that evolved into hundreds of specialized species, a colorful sampling of which you can see in this exhibit. While islands’ nearshore waters attract fishes found elsewhere, mainland species that wind up on islands can gradually change through adaptation to new environments. A lake on an island, like our alligators’ Florida Keys blue hole, offers plenty of shelter plus an unrivaled food supply.

Map turtle

Moonlight gourami

Cichlid