West Indian Manatees at Blue Spring State Park – Orange City, Florida. Photo courtesy: Liquid Productions
Greetings! Here’s another one of my blogs on manatee facts. This is now (Part 6). In this installment, you’ll find more awesome manatee factsI’ve presented over these last few years! Today, I’ll be talking about the diet of us very unique marine mammal herbivores. And I’ll give you a hint…it’s mostly green!
- Florida Manatees can feed on more than 60 species of plants including; manatee grass, turtle grass, mangrove leaves, shoal grass, various algae, water hyacinth, acorns, and hydrilla.
- We manatees have sometimes been observed eating foods other than just plant vegetation. For instance, Antillean manatees have been seen eating fish from nets and West African manatees have been observed eating clams (Reynolds and Odell, 1991).
- Amazonian Manatees that live in very deep water seem to fast during the dry season, which are the months of November and December. This is because the water level can drop by an astonishing 30 – 50 feet, which cuts off their access to vegetation. It is also speculated that due to a manatee’s very low metabolic rate, Amazonian manatees are able to actually fast up to seven months if their environmental conditions warrant it (O’SHEA, 1994).
Uncover the Feeding Methods of Manatees…
We manatees can feed off the bottom, and along the water surface. We can also feed suspended in a water column. Manatees consume 10% to 15% of our body weight in vegetation daily! Why do we eat so much food? Because our metabolism is very slow and eating this high amount of vegetation actually generates heat for our organs. The average adult manatee is about 8 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1200 pounds. So doing the math, the average amount of food a manatee eats per day is anywhere from 80 to 120 pounds! Convert that figure into a single head of iceberg lettuce, which weighs slightly over a pound, and we’ll eat anywhere from 80 to 120 heads of iceberg lettuce each day! OK – Where’s the salad dressing;)?
Manatees have also been observed eating overhanging branches and consuming acorns. In addition, we can get partially out of the water and eat plants growing along the banks, including mangrove tree leaves. We use our flippers and our flexible lips to assist us in eating.
Manatees can be found in fresh, brackish, or salt water. However, they do not drink salt water. Current research suggests manatees in salt-water environments can go without drinking fresh water for extended periods. However, they must return to fresh water areas every one or two weeks. Manatees also get their fresh water from eating aquatic plants.
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