Radiated tortoises “dance” when is rains.
Melbourne, FL (Florida Today) -- While visiting a Florida Tech facility that breeds tortoises with his
father, West Shore Jr./Sr. High School student River Grace noticed
When it rained, certain
tortoises appeared to dance. They stood tall, wiggled their legs,
lifted them up and down and scratched them together.
Intrigued, the now 14-year-old decided to study the behavior for the science fair last spring.
project, titled "Rain Dance of the Radiata: Behavior of the Endangered
Radiated Tortoise and Related Species," was recently chosen as one of 30
finalists in the national Broadcom MASTERS competition.
prestigious science competition for middle school students is designed
to recognize and engage young researchers; winners of state or regional
science fairs are invited to participate.
believe I had gotten this," said River, now a high school freshman. "As
soon as I got over the shock, I was delighted."
finalist, River receives an all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C.,
to attend the Broadcom MASTERS Finals from Sept. 27-Oct. 1.
he'll showcase his project and compete in hands-on activities in
science, technology engineering and math. He'll be in the running for
more than $100,000 in prizes.
While researching the
Radiated Tortoise, River realized that not much is known about the
species, which is only found in southern Madagascar. It's critically
endangered, and scientists estimate it could be extinct in the next 20
River developed a better understanding of the
species while completing his project at Florida Tech, where his father
Michael is a professor, and at the Brevard Zoo. The project was done
under the direction of West Shore Teacher Mary Anderson.
some experiments, River simulated rain by using a water sprinkler and
watching to see if males reacted differently than females, or if
hatchlings reacted differently than adults. He found that gender did not
play a role, but age did.
In addition, he tested six other
species of tortoises, from other parts of the world. They did not
behave the same way in the rain.
River believes the dance may be a cleaning routine, which he wants to study further.
He's also interested in conservation research that could help the species survive.
don't know much about them, and of the scientific papers and all the
information I could find, there's hardly anything," he said.