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Manatee Gifts

Manatee are large, fully aquatic, mostly herbivorous marine mammals sometimes known as sea cows. Half a manatee's day is spent sleeping in the water, surfacing for air regularly at intervals no greater than 20 minutes. Manatees spend most of the rest of the time grazing in shallow water. .Manatees inhabit the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Learn about Manatees

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 manatee's safety.

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Jacob Maddox manages content for Wildlife Animals an educational wildlife and animal website.

Manatee Gifts




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