The manatees, also known colloquially as the sea cow,
is a fully aquatic animal of the taxonomic genus trichechus,
the only genus in the family trichechidae. There are
three species of manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the
West African manatee, and the West Indian manatee, which
together comprise three out of the four extant species
in the taxonomic order sirenia.
The manatee's habitat varies by species, as each species
occupies a distinct region. The Amazonian manatee is
a freshwater manatee, residing in the Amazon River and
its tributaries. The West African manatee can be found
off the west coast of Africa in oceans and estuaries
as well as in freshwater river systems near the west
coast. The West Indian manatee lives along the east
coast of the north of South America, Mexico, and the
south of the United States, but is most popular for
its population on the coast of Florida.
The manatee is notable for its large, barrel-shaped
body. Manatees generally measure about nine to ten feet
in length and weighs between 880 and 1,210 pounds. At
their largest, they can measure 12 feet in length and
weigh 3,913 pounds. To power such large bodies, manatees
about 110 pounds of food per day, spending around seven
hours daily eating.
As a predominantly herbivorous species, the manatee
subsists mainly on a wide variety of freshwater and
saltwater plants. This diet is facilitated by their
large, flexible upper lips, the presence of only molar-like
teeth in adult manatees, and the combination of manatees'
simple stomachs and large cecums, which make it easy
for them to gather, chew, and digest plants. Sometimes,
manatees eat small amounts of fish found in nets. Manatees
do not face a notable threat from natural predators.
Perhaps due to their being neither a predator nor prey,
manatees move very slowly, swimming at speeds of three
to five miles per hour. Manatees have shown themselves
capable of swimming at speeds of up to 20 miles per
hour, but only for short periods of time.
The main threat that manatees face is that of humans.
A major danger to manatees is the presence of ships
on coastlines, as their propellers can contribute to
dangerous collisions with slow-moving, curious manatees.
Manatees also face a natural threat in the red tide,
or the rapid growth of a specific type of marine algae
that can be toxic to larger marine life. The manatee
is endangered and considered vulnerable to extinction
by the World Conservation Union.
Manatees are very gentle and curious creatures, and
may "investigate" human activities in and around their
habitat. Spotting a curious manatee can be a great sight
for divers and swimmers, but humans should take note
that, should they encounter a manatee, it is best not
to interact with it in any way in order to ensure the
About the Author
Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals http://www.wildlife-animals.com
an educational wildlife and animal website.