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April 30, 2022 19 mins

This episode we’re all about Gators as Will and Mango chat about the best way to get an alligator to duet with you, why gators are surprisingly good mothers, and how a California theme park taught Americans to share their water slides with these toothy beasts. 

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Speaker 1 (00:03):
Welcome to Part Time Genius, a production of I Heart Radio.
I Guess what Will? What's that Mango? So I was
thinking about how sometimes we forget that all these simple
things around us are really music, and what do you
mean by that? Like I was in traffic coming from
the airport this weekend and everyone was honking, and I

remembered how most cars actually honk in the key of
F or. This is another thing. When I was in
high school, this kid Sean and my jazz band realized
that our high school's bell rang it I think, a G.
So when the class was over and the first bell rang,
everyone would harmonize and play a G seven chord on
their instruments. So ned, so stupid, but of course I

loved it. But this week I learned that if you
want to get an alligator's attention, all you have to
do is grab your tuba and play a B flat. Okay,
I like that for this experiment, all you have to
have You got to have an alligator and a tuba nearby.
But so what exactly happens when you play a B flat?
It is magical because for some reason that note arouses

male gators, and when an alligator hears it, it'll bellow
or call back to you. Is this a real thing? Yeah,
it's actually got this great origin story. So apparently in
the nineteen forties, the New York Philharmonic took a field
trip to the Natural History Museum and while they were
warming up there, this alligator named Oscar, who I guess
was a part of the natural history exhibit at the time,

he just started moaning. And you know, they're all these
scientists there and they were watching, and you know, he'd
start moaning, and then the instruments would play and then
and then he'd moaned, and then he'd stop, and it
was start again and and so you know, the scientists
stopped the musicians and got them to start playing different
notes to see what was specifically causing it. And for

whatever reason, it turns out B flat was the key
to the alligator call. Thanks to this great science done
by Oscar and the New York Philharmonic, plenty of folks
have actually repeated the experiment and gotten alligators to duet
with them. But you actually have to remember not any
B flat works. You actually have to play the B
flat that's one octave below middle C to really get

them going. Okay, that's just the first of nine wonderful
facts we've got about alligators today. So let's dig in

a their podcast. Listeners, Welcome to part Time Genius. I'm
Will Pearson and as always I'm joined by my good
friend Manues Ticketer. And on the other side of that
soundproof glass are good Buddy Ramsey. He's giving us his
best toothy grin. Alright, Mango. So it's been a while
since we've done one of these shows. I know, I've
actually missed it so much. And two things before we

can this off. One, I promised that if and when
we finally started doing this show again, we'd give a
shout out to our listeners son Apollo, who is a
fan of the show or was a fan of the show.
But Apollo, if you're listening taggers on Instagram, we want
to see what you're up to. What's up, Apollo, This
weird show about alligators is for you, and too, Will.

I know you've gone to St. Pete and Florida so
many times, but I don't know why you didn't tell
me that they keep baby alligators in their mini golf
places there. The only downside to doing this episode is
that I was hoping to save this for when we
both I know, both of us really want to retire
to Florida, and since we're really bad at most sports
instead of golf, we were going to retire there to
play mini golf. And that's when I was going to

tell you, yeah, the big reveal. So my in laws
ready a place there for winter break, and we took
my kids mini golfing. And the fact that there were
tiny gators that you could feed these pellets, so you
put alligator food on the little fishing rod and send
it down. Honestly, it was the greatest thing. And the
mini gulf was so unremarkable, but the fact that my

tiny monsters were feeding these tiny monsters was just so great.
So I thought, you know, I wanted to learn more
about gators. That's awesome. And actually you have one more reason, right, yeah,
And this one's a little more personal. My dad has
been pretty ill recently. I know I told you this,
but he can't really watch things. But he loves you,

and he has stacks of mental flaws in his garage
and he's a huge, huge, part time genius fan. So
he and Apollo might be the only ones left off there.
But I thought hearing us laugh and be goofy and
sharing facts would make him smile. So thank you for
making the time to do some more episodes with me. Oh,
I love your dad. This was a no brainer to
do this, And it makes sense for this topic because

when I think of your dad, I always think of
his love for these big, aggressive reptiles. It's sound like
his thing. So it makes sense you picked this theme
especial leave for him. But we've actually got eight facts
to go. So what do you say I do the
next one? Yeah, go for it, all right. So I
actually wanted to build on your b flat fact because
bellowing is one of those things crocodiles do as a

mating ritual. And so the bellow does this amazing thing
to the water. It's where the alligator just raises his
head and tail out of the water, so his back
and belly are still submerged. You know, it's almost like
if you you imagine like a banana curved up and
so you lower it into the water so both ends
are sticking out and you know you can picture this, right,
except the instead of a banana. It's just go with me,

just just think about it. And so when the gator
bellows or does its deep growl. These vibrations make the
water around its body kind of kind of like ripple
out it's it's it's actually pretty spectacular if you look
at this in slow motion, and it's very very appealing
to female alligators of course, And is that the main
way that male alligators like court females like They don't

dim the lights, in play smooth jazz, neither of those things.
But this is this is one part of it. So
sometimes you'll hear one gator bellow and then another male
gator will will try to out bellow it by making
its own giant ripples. But gators have some of the
most amazing and really romantic courting rituals too. There was
this this piece and wired I was looking at and

they like quote head slapping on the water surface, snout
and back rubbing and blowing bubbles, you know, the usual.
It's pretty awesome. That's pretty romantic. So here's one I
hadn't realized. I know, Cape Canaveral is in Florida, and
it's where NASA launches and land shuttles, but I didn't
realize the land around it is actually a wildlife sanctuary

and This is all stuff I learned in Modern Farmer.
But in the nineties sixties, NASA bought about a hundred
forty five thousand acres of coastal property there, but since
they only needed about six thousand acres, they turned the
rest into this Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge. But according
to modern Farmer, that proximity to wildlife has definitely caused
some issues. And I'm reading here quote morning commuters have

to wait as bobcats cross the roadway. Shuttle launches are
stalled by armadillo's woodpeckers, poke holes, and fuel tanks. But
according to the guy who manages the island call center,
the biggest issue at NASA is with of course, gators.
And here's how we put it. Quote, we've got gators
blocking doorways, climbing fences. We've got little bitty ones to

shore big enough gators. NASA employees are encouraged to keep
alert indoors and out. You're never supposed to feed the gators,
and always check on your cars before hopping in. And
since I can't get off this b flat thing, sometimes
when the shuttles land, the gators start bellowing because they're
trying to outdo the shuttles made in Call Wow. Actually,
I think this episode could have just been about B flat.

We should do a separate one just on B flat.
But I need you to back up for a second.
So what are you supposed to do if you see
a gator? I mean, go back inside? I guess advice.
There's really only one account I read about an employee
trying to deal with a gator on his own. He
apparently made karate chopping motions and kept yelling, and the

gator hissed and spit, but apparently eventually went away. So
I guess if you know you have to deal with
the gator, learned karate. Okay, all right, I'll think about that.
And I actually I realized this is off topic. But
did you read about the guy with the alligator at
the drive through while you were researching for this episode?
Uh know what? What was this recently? All right? So
this was again talking about Florida kind of reminded me

about this. This is back from I think it was.
So there was this kid that apparently drove up to
a Wendy's. He made an order, he got his drink,
and then of course he tossed the three ft gator
through the window of the drive through. Yeah, thankfully nobody
was heard, and he didn't really have a motive. Apparently
his mom's defense the local news was that, you know,

he's just a big prankster and can't help himself. Yeah, franksters,
what happened to him? So he got charged with quote
assault with a deadly weapon, which I guess is, you know,
not far off. And the judge had some pretty strict
terms for him. So one of the punishments he's banned
from Wendy's for life. So, I mean, you've got to
really think twice before you throw a gator through a
drive through because you cannot go back for that spicy

chicken sandwich. And he was told that he couldn't fraternize
with any animals except his mother's dog, which of course
makes sense. So my son Henry does the worst pranks
like he is under the mistaken impression that just saying
April Fools absolves you of anything you do. And two
years ago he decided to pour some water in our

bed as a prank, and right before bed he took
three giant pine glasses of water and poured them on
our mattress. Got you I got so mad. We had
to sleep on the guest bed in the living room
for two days before the thing cried out. Wow, yeah,
that's quite the frank, But I'm really hoping that he

never gets access to alligators. So your fact kind of
sounds like the most Florida man headline I have heard
in a while. But but do you want to do
another factor make up for it? Yeah? Yeah, let me
see which one I want to want to do next.
All right, Well, this is something I think is super cool.
So alligators obviously seemed tough because they've got that bony
armor on their skin, and they can climb fences like

you mentioned and do these death rolls and things like that.
But even their blood is actually tougher than ours. So
part of the reason you never see an alligator with
colds and flus, Like, have you ever seen an alligator
with a cold? Bano? You know, I haven't. You haven't,
And that's because no, it really doesn't doesn't work at
all because they have this incredible immune system. These scientists

in Louisiana have actually discovered that the serum and alligator
blood can fight off viruses and bacteria can actually destroy
most of the microbes in HIV. It's actually part of
the reason that when an alligator tail is severed in
a swamp, even if the water is muddy and dirty,
the animals rarely get infections. So this discovery is incredible

because it has all sorts of potential application for humans.
I was looking at this article in National Geographic talking
about this, and it was showing that the resulting medicines
could help everyone from like diabetes patients with foot ulcers,
to burn victims to people suffering from various autoimmune diseases.
That's pretty remarkable. It's kind of funny. That's something like
a bat could give us COVID, but an alligator might

be the one to cure it. Your ear is a
ridiculous one. I like just because I like picturing it.
Apparently alligators have two types of walks, a high walk
and a low walk or a sprawl. Well, the low
walk is cooler, like they kind of dragged their belly
on the ground that they kind of lazily pulled themselves along.
But you know, whether on the move or late for

a meeting, they high tail it. Literally they raise their
bellies and half their tail up off the ground and
they kind of stand upright on all fours and then
they really move. And I didn't realize this, but according
to our pals how stuff works, alligators aren't really hunters
or gatherers. They're more what they call lurkers. They kind
of just lunge food. So they're opportunistic and they can

actually go a few years without eating if they need to.
But when they decide they're really hungry, they can really
high walk to a meal. They can apparently reach peak
speeds of thirty five miles per hour on that's fast. Yeah,
but they also tire very very quickly, so they're never
going to be an antelope in a marathon or half marathon.
That's another good factor right down. So but speaking of facts,

we've got three more facts to go. But let's take
a quick break and we'll be right back. Welcome back
to Part time Genius, where we're talking all about gators today.

All right, what did you want to talk about next, Mengo? So,
something I think is super cool about alligators is that
their sex isn't predetermined by genetics. It actually has all
to do with the temperature you store an alligator EGGA Actually,
just just to take a step back, one thing, that's
fascinating is that in the nineteen fifties and sixties, alligators
were nearly hunted to extinction in America. But part of

the reason they managed to recover is that the gators
lay a lot of eggs, like thirty to fifty of
them at one time, so once there were more restrictions
on hunting, they made a quick comeback. But gators make
a giant nest like three ft high and six ft wide,
and then they bury their eggs inside it, and the
eggs that incubate at around eighty degrees will turn out female,

but the ones that incubated closer to ninety degrees will
be male, and in between is just a mix of
males and females, which I think is kind of remarkable.
But the other thing that's interesting about alligators is that
the moms also stick around to protect their hatchlings, which
is super rare in modern reptiles and more common frankly
to birds and some dinosaur species. That is really interesting.

So we're down to two last facts, and I'm curious,
what do you have as your final last fact? For
my final fact, I think the most insane thing I
found this week is from this article on Smithsonian and
it's called When Kids Played with Alligators in Los Angeles,
and the pieces all about a theme park. As soon
as I saw this headline, I was like, this is
gonna be good, and it's all about this theme park

I've never heard of before. It was called the California
Alligator Farm, which I guess operated from nineteen o seven
to nineteen fifty three, so almost half a century. And
for only one quarter you could see over a thousand
alligators of all sizes. And while the gators were exercised
and you could you could watch them eat live chickens.

There were twenty ponds was supposedly trained alligators that you
could interact with. But the photos are insane, Like there's
this picture of a baby in a pin with thirty
hatchlings and no parents anywhere to be found there. Yeah,
it's if you really need to look this up. There
are photos of people writing on the alligator backs. There
are pictures of picnics in the water with people in

bathing suits eating meals right next to these gators. The
gators are actually approaching the table. No one seems to
be scared by this. And I think my favorite fact
is that there are photos of people watching as adult
alligators all climb up a ladder and then take a
water slide down into the pond for fun. Like it
is the weirdest thing. It's like a giant petting zoo

for gators. It makes no sense at all, but it
sounds fun for the gators too. Yes, maybe that maybe
they were having fun so they didn't decided not to attack.
So I'm definitely gonna look this up. But did anyone
die there? Like that all sounds so incredibly dangerous. Yeah,
it is. I mean, in that article on how stuff works,
the editors right, how alligators are really instinctual animals because

you know, their brains are only nine grams and they
take about half a tablespoon of space, which means there's
no such thing as a nice gator. I mean, these
things are programmed to behave a certain way. But for
whatever reason, there really aren't reports of injuries there, so
I'm certain there were something that happened. And one thing
I do know is there were a lot of lines

posted to remind visitors, you know, not to punch the
gators or throw rocks at them, so don't don't try that.
And apparently college pranksters used to occasionally sneak in and
steal a gator. But other than that, there really isn't
a whole lot of reporting on, you know, the darker
side of an alligator farm. That's amazing. Well, my last
fact is kind of fitting. I decided to look up

the origins of see you later, alligator? Okay, all right,
what did you find out? Not much? Well, that does
it for today. So as you might imagine, there's no
clear origin story, like there isn't for a lot of
these things. But it's really funny. There's a site called
word Histories and they looked up early newspaper accounts that
reference the phrase, and there are all these explainer columns

for adults trying to understand their kids and why they're
talking this with. So in there's a column in the
Honolulu Star Bulletin that explained teenage slang in Hawaii and
it reads, quote, many high school students use expressions such
as tutelu tofu or see u alligator, which you fight
responses like see you soon, goon and hit the toad road,

which I guess means that in a wild crocodile wasn't
immediately like the default response I've never heard before. No,
But it gets better that there's also an explanation from
this guy, lester Rand in the Baltimore Sun, and this
is and he clarifies the alligator and ceu alligator is

an all encompassing term and relieves the leaving party of
having to recite several names, and in case the Olds
needed more explanation, it continues the popular teenage rhyming expressions
rarely convey any actual meaning and are somewhat confusing, like
do you know what I mean, jelly bean? Let me

have steak Jake and have a piece of salami, Tommy,
right classic. It feels like a phrase we should bring back,
right like whatever we're saying goodbye to someone, And I
kind of want to say, like, have a piece of salobby, Tommy. Yeah,
that's a weird one. And I think if I was
a parent my kid kept saying this as he walked

out of the door, I'd probably be confused enough to
want to read an article about what was wrong with him.
But anyway, who do you think deserves the crown for
today's fact off? Well, I I did like the fact
that we talked about b flat so much. A lot
of flat. Those photos of alligators on water slides, I
think have to be my new wallpaper. I'm gonna say

you win. This crazy alligator farm theme park thing is
too good. It's so good looking at those photos, so
I will take it. Thank you very much, I'm honored.
That is it for today's Part Time Genius. If you
like hearing this show, hit us up on Twitter or Instagram,
drop us a line and Apple reviews. And if you
have any great gator facts we missed or of a
topic you want us to cover, be sure to write

to us about those two and thank you, thank you,
thank you so much for listening, especially you, Dad m.

Part Time Genius is a production of I Heart Radio.
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