A Florida manatee mom escorting her calf at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida.
I thought I’d recap some really cool and interesting facts about us Florida manatees in this blog. As some of you may already know yours truly, Kobee Manatee is a Florida manatee. And my home is at Blue Spring State Park in Orange City, Florida. I’m also known as a subspecies of the West Indian manatee. And I have a very close manatee relative, who is also a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, called an Antillean manatee. The Florida manatee and the Antillean manatee only have some minor DNA differences when it comes to our biology. However, our differences are not only found in our DNA, but in geography as well. As the name suggests, the Florida manatee is found in Florida’s coastal waters, rivers, estuaries, bays, and springs as compared to the Antillean manatee, which is found in the Caribbean basin.
Florida manatees are very large marine mammals. We’re between 8 and 10 feet long and weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds! On rare instances, we can grow up to 13 feet long and weigh in at an astonishing 3,500 pounds! Manatees have a paddle-shaped tail that propels us and we also have two flippers. And get this – we can also use our flippers for walking on sand at the bottom of the water and also for holding aquatic plants that we eat! Since we’re mammals, we need to breath air. So we’ll surface every 5 minutes for air. And when we sleep, we can stay underwater for about 20 minutes before we surface for air!
The West Indian manatee belongs to the scientific order Sirenia (sea cows). In fact, all manatees including; the Amazonian manatee, the West African manatee, the Dugong, and the Steller’s sea cow (now extinct) belong to the scientific order Sirenia.
Manatees are warm-blooded. We need water of at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit or we could die from the cold. The only exception to this was the Steller’s Sea Cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The Steller’s Sea Cow had 4 – 9 inches of fat protecting it from the arctic ice, rocks and cold-water temperatures in the Bering Sea!
Manatees are adventurous! We love traveling during the summer months when the water is warm. Florida manatees can travel as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts! All manatees are herbivores – we eat only aquatic plants such as; seagrass, manatee grass, and turtle grass. Now this is another interesting fact about us…
… Manatees consume between 10 to 15 percent of our body weight in plants each day! Yours truly, Kobee Manatee, currently weighs in at 1,000 pounds. So to put this in perspective for you, I’ll eat anywhere from 100 to 150 heads of iceberg lettuce each day! Why? To help us stay warm! Actually, manatees have very little body fat. It is our bones and structure that make us look fat. So to help keep our metabolism going, eating this volume of plants is necessary on a daily basis!
In general, we manatees are slow moving, we’re curious, and we’re gentle creatures swimming at 5mph. But if we need to, we can swim up to 20mph in short bursts! This is rare and most of the time we enjoy eating, traveling and resting, anytime of day. You see, we don’t have any agenda! It’s not a bad life!
Here’s one more interesting fact about manatees. Because we eat most of the time, the sand we take in with the plants is abrasive on our teeth, or molars I should say. As a result, we constantly replace our teeth. Our front ones fall out, and then new molars in the back replace them. This is called, “marching molars!”
If you see any sick or injured manatees, 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