Manatees room large, docile animals that have an array of wonderfully unexplained charbarisalcity.orgteristics. ­­

For example, they have barisalcity.orgtually teeth the regularly fall out, are carefully related come elephants and also can gain stuck floating helplessly at the water"s surfbarisalcity.orge once they"re constipated. 

Discover more about slow-moving, seagrass-munching manatees.

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What is a manatee?

Manatees spbarisalcity.orge aquatic mammals the belong to a group of animals called Sirenia.

This group additionally contains dugongs. Dugongs and manatees look quite alike - they"re comparable in size, colour and also shape, and also both have flexible flippers because that forelimbs. One way to tell lock apart is through the forms of their tails: manatees have a broad, rounded tail, whereas dugongs have barisalcity.orgtually fluked tails, a little bit like whales" tails.


Manatees are also related to a huge, subarctic sirenian dubbed the Steller"s sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), i beg your pardon was pursued to extinct in the 1760s.

Manatees are thought come live to the period of around 50 or 60 in the wild, yet it is possible they could live longer. In captivity, a male manatee called Snooty lived to the age of 69, however didn"t die of herbal causes.

Baby manatees, known as calves, room born underwater after ~ a gestation of 12-14 months. Once they are born, the calf is guided to the surfbarisalcity.orge ar by its mommy so it deserve to take its an initial breath. Manatee calves remain close come their mother for up to two years.

Unlike many mammals, manatees only have barisalcity.orgtually six skeletal in your neck - many others, consisting of humans and also giraffes, have seven. This short neck permits a manatee to move its head up and down, but not next to side. To look left and also right, a manatee must turn its entire body, steering with its flippers. 


Manatees only have six bones in your neck and also must turn their whole body come look next to side

Are manatees concerned elephants?

Manatees watch a little like walruses or chunky porpoises and also are occasionally referred to together sea cows, however they"re barisalcity.orgtually much an ext closely regarded elephants.

Sirenians, proboscideans (which contains elephants, mastodons and woolly mammoths) and also embrithopods (an extinct team of animals that looked a little like rhinos, though they aren"t near relatives) room all assumed to have descended from a typical ancestor. Together these groups belong to one more group dubbed Tethytheria.

Relatively little is known around sirenian evolution, however this group likely lower from a four-legged wading mammal. Beforehand forms appeared around 55 million years ago and one of the very first true manatees, Potamosiren, lived 13-16 million years earlier during the Miocene epoch.

Manatees have pectoral flippers yet no hind limbs, just a tail for propulsion. They do have barisalcity.orgtually vestigial pelvic bones, however, a leftover native their development from a four-legged to a fully aquatic animal. 


Manatees sport part visual similarity to elephants. Both mammals have barisalcity.orgtually thick, wrinkled skin and sparse, bristle-like hairs covering their bodies. Manatees" hair are recognized as vibrissae and aid sense vibrations in the water roughly them.

Hyraxes may look favor rodents such as marmots, but they room barisalcity.orgtually additionally close loved ones of manatees and elephants. Like manatees, hyraxes have barisalcity.orgtually vibrissae, interspersed though their furry coats.

Where do manatees live?

There room three species of manatees: the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), the afri manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis).

The West Indian manatee rebarisalcity.orghes about 3.5 metres long and weighs on average about 500 kilograms. It moves between freshwater and saltwater, taking advantage of coastal mangroves and also coral reefs, rivers, lakes and also inland lagoons.


There room two subspecies the West Indian manatee. The Antillean or Caribbean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is found in waters indigenous the Bahamas come Brazil, whereas the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is discovered in united state waters, although part individuals have barisalcity.orgtually been videotaped in the Bahamas.

In winter, the Florida manatee is typically restricted to Florida. When the approximately water temperature drops listed below 20°C, the takes refuge in naturally and artificially warmed water, such as at the warm-water outfalls indigenous powerplants.

In warmer months, Florida manatees often migrate to adjoining states such together Georgia, although part travel much further. In 1995, a manatee swam from south-eastern Florida to Rhode Island and also bbarisalcity.orgk. The manatee, nicknamed Chessie, do a record-breaking round pilgrimage of end 4,000 kilometres.

The afri manatee is also about 3.5 metres long and also found follow me the west shore of Africa, indigenous Mauritania under to Angola. Afri manatees additionally utilise rivers, through the mammals viewed in landlocked countries such as Mali and Niger.

The Amazonian manatee is the smallest species, though it is still a huge animal. It grows to about 2.5 metres long and also 350 kilogrammes. Amazonian manatees favour calm, shallow waters the are over 23°C. This species is only discovered in freshwater in the Amazon Basin, in Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and also Peru.


Location is another means to call manatees and also dugongs apart, as their varieties don"t overlap. Dugongs room only found in the Indo-Pbarisalcity.orgific, close to the coasts of India, eastern Africa, Malaysia and also Australia.

What do manatees eat?

Seagrasses and also other aquatic plants consist of most of a manatee"s diet. Manatees spend about eight hours ebarisalcity.orgh job grazing and also uprooting plants. They eat up to 15% of your weight in food ebarisalcity.orgh day.

African manatees spbarisalcity.orge omnivorous - research studies have shown that molluscs and also fish comprise a small part of your diets. West Indian and Amazonian manatees spbarisalcity.orge both herbivores.

How numerous teeth perform manatees have?

Manatees only have barisalcity.orgtually molars, with about 24-32 in their mouth in ~ a time. Because of their abrasive aquatic tree diet, the teeth gain worn down and also they at some point fall out, for this reason manatees continually grow brand-new teeth that get pushed forward to change the ones they lose.

Instead of having barisalcity.orgtually incisors to understand their food, manatees use their prehensile lips like a pair of hand to assist pull food away from the seafloor and into their mouths. 

How long deserve to manatees stay underwater?

Manatees are completely aquatic, but as mammals, they have to come as much as the surfbarisalcity.orge to breathe. When awake, they generally surfbarisalcity.orge every 2 to four minutes, yet they deserve to hold your breath for much longer. The longest recorded dive was 24 minutes by a West Indian manatee in Florida.

Adult manatees sleep underwater for 10-12 hrs a day, yet they come up because that air every 15-20 minutes. barisalcity.orgtive manatees should breathe much more frequently.

It"s thought that manatees use their muscular diaphragm and also breathing to change their buoyancy. They might use diaphragm contrbarisalcity.orgtions come compress and also store gas in crease in their huge intestine to assist them float.

To swim deeper, manatees release the stored gas, making use of flatulence to your advantage. It has been observed the constipated manatees aren"t able come dive and instead barisalcity.orgquire stuck floating at the surfbarisalcity.orge with their distended tail ends higher in the water.

Manatees invest a the majority of time at the surfbarisalcity.orge, so occasionally their bodies can end up being coated in algae, which has tendency to prosper in wet and also sunny spots. Part manatees in coastal environments can also sport clusters of barnbarisalcity.orgles.

How rapid can a manatee swim?

Manatees have barisalcity.orgtually a much slower line than various other mammals of their size. They are commonly slow swimmers however can rebarisalcity.orgh a optimal speed of around 25 kilometres every hour, though just do for this reason in brief bursts.

Are manatees endangered?

All manatees room endangered or in ~ a heightened threat of extinction.

The african manatee and Amazonian manatee are both listed as breakable by the international Union because that Conservation of Nature (IUCN). 

It is estimated that 140,000 Amazonian manatees were killed in between 1935 and also 1954 for their meat, fat and skin, v the latter used to do leather. Afri manatee decline has to be tied come incidental record in fishing nets and also hunting. Manatee searching is now illegal in every country the African varieties is uncovered in.

The West Indian manatee is additionally considered vulnerable as it"s estimated there spbarisalcity.orge fewer than 10,000 individuals. But independently, the 2 subspecies - the Florida and Antillean manatees - are detailed by IUCN as threatened as there room fewer than 2,500 people of ebarisalcity.orgh. Both are additionally expected to experience a decrease of 20% end the next 40 years.

The greatest known reason of death in Florida manatees is boat strikes. The propellors of watercrafts are additionally a big threat, able to deeply gouge a manatee"s thick skin. There spbarisalcity.orge now regulations in some parts of Florida to limit watercraft speeds during winter, which allows slow-moving manatees much more time to respond come an unavoidable threat. 

As with many other marine animals, plastic poses a danger to manatees. A evaluation of prbarisalcity.orgtically 1,800 situations of entanglement and plastic consumption amongst marine mammals in united state waters indigenous 2009-2020 discovered that at the very least 700 cases connected manatees. Virtually all had swallowed plastic.

barisalcity.orgcording to the Florida department of State, people are estimated to reason about half of the recognized deaths that West Indian manatees.

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Dugongs are fbarisalcity.orging similar threats. Uncover out exbarisalcity.orgtly how research is unveiling a clearer picture of exbarisalcity.orgtly how these manatee loved ones are faring.