What are Manatees?

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What are Manatees? Blog Image


A record number of manatees converged at a Florida state park recently.

About Manatees

  • Manatees are large aquatic mammals, and sometimes they're referred to as “sea cows.”
  • They belong to a group of animals called Sirenia. This group also contains dugongs.
  • Dugongs and manatees are very similar in appearance and behavior, but there is one key difference: their tails.
    • Manatees have paddle-shaped tails, and dugongs have fluked tails, giving it a whale-like appearance.
  • Habitat: Manatees inhabit shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers.
  • There are three species, or types, of manatee.
    • The Amazonian manatee lives in the Amazon River and in fresh water in South America. This species is only found in freshwater.
    • The African manatee lives in tropical West Africa.
    • The Caribbean manatee is found in Florida and the West Indies.
  • Features:
    • Adult manatees may reach a length of 15 feet (4.6 meters) and a weight of 1,660 kilograms. 
    • Females tend to be larger and heavier than males.
    • Dull gray, blackish, or brown in colour, all three manatee species have stout tapered bodies ending in a flat rounded tail used for forward propulsion. 
    • The forelimbs are modified into flippers; there are no hind limbs.
    • In order to breathe, they must swim to the water’s surface for air. 
    • Lifespan: 50 to 60 years
    • They are herbivores. They spend up to eight hours a day grazing and can consume 4 to 9 percent of their body weight in aquatic vegetation daily.
    • Apart from mothers and their young, or males following a receptive female, manatees are generally solitary animals.
  • Conservation Status: All three manatee species are listed as ‘Vulnerable’ by the IUCN’s Red List of Threatened Species.

Q1) What are dugongs?

The dugong (Dugong dugon), also called the sea cow, is a herbivorous mammal.They have a broad but fragmented range inhibiting the warm coastal waters of the Indian and Pacific oceans.The largest population of sea cows is found in the northern waters of Australia.They generally inhabit shallow waters, remaining at depths of around 10 m. It is classified as ‘Vulnerable’ under the IUCN Red List.

Source: An unprecedented 1,000 manatees are gathering in Florida this week – but why?