Florida Manatees also known as West Indian Manatees at Blue Spring State Park – Orange City, Florida Photo: Robert Scott Thayer
Greetings! Here’s another one of my blogs on manatee facts. This is the seventh installment, where you’ll find more awesome manatee facts I’ve presented over these last few years!
The manatee is a large marine mammal with a paddle-shaped tail and two flippers. Interestingly, the manatee is closely related to elephants. Yours truly is actually a Florida manatee. I’m also known as a West Indian Manatee. The Antillean manatee is also known as a West Indian Manatee. We do however; have minor differences in our DNA. And we also occupy different geographical areas. As the name suggests, the Florida manatee can be found in Florida’s coastal waters, rivers, estuaries, bays, and springs as compared to the Antillean manatee, which is found in the Caribbean basin. Here are some quick and interesting bullet points, which show you why us manatees are such rare, interesting and unique mammals…
- The West Indian manatee belongs to the scientific order Sirenia and the Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian manatee.
- Other sirenians include; the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, Steller’s sea cow (extinct), and the West African manatee.
- Manatees found in Blue Spring State Park are Florida manatees. In fact, as the name suggests, all manatees in Florida are Florida manatees!
- Florida manatees inhabit the southeastern United States.
- In the summer months when it is warm, some Florida manatees (yours truly) love adventures and will travel as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts!
- Manatees are herbivores – we only eat plants such as seagrass, manatee grass, and turtle grass. We also consume between 10 to 15 percent of our body weight in plants each day!
- The average size of a manatee is 8 to 10 feet long.
- The average weight of a manatee is between 800 to 1,200 pounds!
- The female manatee generally grows larger than the male manatee.
- The manatee is one of the biggest mammals in the world!
- As with most large mammals, the manatee has a low reproductive rate.
- On average, one manatee calf is born every 2 to 5 years.
- The manatee does not have gills. It must surface every 5 minutes to breathe air through its 2 nostrils.
- Manatees can stay underwater for lengths of up to 20 minutes.
- The manatee has a whale-like body, which tapers down to a paddle-shaped tail. It is this tail that gives the manatee its swimming power.
- In general, the manatee is a slow moving, curious, and gentle creature, swimming around 5mph. However, the manatee can swim at speeds of up to 20mph in short bursts!
- Dugongs have fluke-shaped tails much like sharks and whales.
- The manatee has two forelimbs called flippers that help with its steering. These flippers also assist the manatee in walking underwater. Each manatee flipper has 3 to 4 fingernails. These are found on both the West Indian Manatee and the West African Manatee.
- The Amazonian manatee and the dugong do not have any fingernails.
- Manatees have wrinkled heads with whiskers on their snouts.
- The manatee actually has very little body fat. Its bone structure is what makes the manatee so large!
- The manatee is a marine mammal. It is warm-blooded and needs water temperatures of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit to survive.
- Manatees spend most of their time eating, traveling, and resting.
- The manatee can distinguish between different-sized objects, colors, and patterns.
- Manatees continually replace their teeth, which are all molars. As their front molars wear down from eating abrasive sand in the plants, their front molars fall out and are replaced with the molars located in the back! This is known as “marching molars!”
- Manatees have been known to respond to visual cues up to 115 away!
- The manatee has large ear bones and a good sense of hearing with a wide range of frequencies. However, its sound localization is poor.
- Manatees communicate with chirps, whistles, or squeaks.
- Manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas, especially where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish.
- Adult manatee lungs can exceed 3 feet long! This helps the manatee with buoyancy.
Stay tuned for moremanatee facts coming up in a future blog!
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 Club link to learn more about us manatees …
Here’s a cool link for you to learn more about how we’re rescued and brought into rehabilitation …
~ Kobee Manatee