Florida is a state in the southeastern region of the United States, bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. Florida is the 22nd most extensive, the 4th most populous, and the 8th most densely populated of the 50 United States. The state capital is Tallahassee, its largest city is Jacksonville, and the Miami metropolitan area is the largest metropolitan area in the southeastern United States. Much of Florida is situated on a peninsula between the Gulf of Mexico, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Straits of Florida. Its geography is marked by a coastline, by the omnipresence of water and the threat of hurricanes. Florida has the longest coastline in the contiguous United States, encompassing approximately 2000 km, and is the only state to border both the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Much of the state is at or near sea level and its terrain is characterized by sedimentary soils. Its symbolic animals like the American alligator, Florida panther and the manatee, can be found in the Everglades, one of the most famous national parks in the world. Since the first European contact was made in 1513 by Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León – who named it La Florida ("Flowery Land") upon landing there during the Easter season, Florida was a challenge for the European colonial powers before it gained statehood in the United States in 1845. It was a principal location of the Seminole Wars against the Indians. Today, it is distinguished by its large Hispanic community, and high population growth, as well as its increasing environmental concerns. Its economy relies mainly on tourism, agriculture and transportation, which developed in the late 19th century. Florida is also known for its amusement parks, the production of oranges and the Kennedy Space Center. Florida culture is a reflection of influences and multiple inheritance; Native American, European American, Hispanic and African American heritages can be found in the architecture and cuisine. Florida has attracted many writers such as Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ernest Hemingway and Tennessee Williams, and continues to attract celebrities and athletes. It is internationally known for tennis, golf, auto racing and water sports.
The American alligator, sometimes referred to colloquially as a gator, is a reptile endemic to the Southeastern United States. It is one of the two living species of alligator, in the genus Alligator. It is larger than the other extant alligator species, the Chinese alligator. The American alligator inhabits freshwater wetlands, such as marshes and cypress swamps, from Texas to North Carolina. The American alligator has a large, slightly rounded body, with thick limbs, a broad head, and a very powerful tail. Adult alligators generally have dark grey or nearly black color. They may at times appear to be lighter based on detritus or algae in the water covering their skin. Alligators travel very quickly in water and, while they are generally slow-moving on land, they can lunge short distances very quickly. The American alligator is the official state reptile of three states: Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. In addition, Gators has been the nickname of the University of Florida's sports teams since 1911.
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