Florida manatees enjoying the warm balmy waters at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida Photo: Robert Scott Thayer
Greetings! This is my fifth blog installment talking about some very cool and awesome manatee facts.
Manatees actually make good parents! The manatee gestation period is about one year. Well – it is actually the female manatee that makes a good parent. The male manatee doesn’t contribute much at all to the bring up of a calf.
The mother manatee will have a calf every two to five years. And she will nurse its calf for about two years. When the calf is born, it usually weighs between 60 to 70 pounds and its length measures in between 3.5 to 4 feet in length.
Mom also has special squeaks and chirps that her calf can easily identify if it strays too far. Mom also teaches her calf the best places to find seagrass since all manatees are herbivores. Manatees like moving through the water slowly and they stop frequently to eat seagrass and other aquatic plants. This is called grazing. They enjoy swimming at between 2 to 6 miles per hour. However, if they sense trouble they can easily swim up to speeds of 20 miles per hour in short bursts!
Since manatees swim slowly, it is not uncommon to notice barnacles attached to their bodies. These barnacles can catch food from the currents as the manatee swims or rests on the sandy bottom. Additionally, manatees can become covered with algae on their backs, since they surface to breathe and move slowly through the water. The algae get its energy from the sunlight at the water’s surface. This results in a manatee’s skin looking green and one may think it is diseased. However, this condition is harmless and the manatee can get rid of the green color and also the barnacles because it constantly sheds small pieces of its skin.
The beauty of being a manatee is that it really has no agenda other than eating and swimming. Not a bad life wouldn’t you say? Because the manatee is a marine mammal (water animal needing to breathe) it surfaces every 3 to 5 minutes for air. The manatee will breach the water’s surface and poke their nostrils into the air. As such, a manatee does not breathe through its mouth just through its nostrils.
Additionally, when a manatee sleeps, it lies on the bottom for about 20 minutes then it will automatically ascend to the surface for air. Then it will descend right to the bottom again. To make the manatee’s breathing effortless, its nostrils have special flaps of skin, which open when they surface and close when they submerge.
Stay tuned as I bring you more very cool manatee facts from another one of my blogs!
If you are in Florida and you see a sick or injured manatee, please call the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at: 1-888-404-FWCC. They are the folks who are responsible for rescuing us in Florida.
Here’s the Save the Manatee Clublink to learn more about manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee