or sea cows
) are large aquatic mammals that live in warm coastal waters and, during the winter, inland spring-fed rivers. The forelimbs are flippers; there are no hindlimbs. The tail, used for propulsion, is wide and flat. They are herbivores, eating only vegetation. Only four species exist, one of which lives in Florida.
Manatees can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes but usually surface to breathe every 3-5 minutes.
Manatees are docile creatures and have no natural predators. Recreational boat propellers account for many manatee injuries and deaths. American Scientist
reports on a study, Manatees, Bioacoustics and Boats
. that examined the hearing abilities of manatees and underwater acoustics and concludes with suggestions to reduce collisions.
** PROTECTED **
The Florida Manatee
, Trichechus manatus latirostris
, is gray with a broad, square, bristled snout. It reaches a length of 8-14 feet and may weigh 600-2000 pounds (average 10', 1000 pounds).
It migrates seasonally. During the warmer months, the Florida manatee is found in bays and estuaries along both coasts. During cooler months, unable to tolerate water temperatures below 65°F, manatees congregate in large groups in warm waters, such as spring-fed rivers and industrial plant outflows.
Diet consists of sea- and bank grasses, mangrove, and submerged and floating vegetation.
Breeding occurs at any time of the year, but most often in spring and summer. The calf, weighing 30-60 pounds, is born 12-13 months later and will remain with the mother for up to two years.
Man is the only predator of adult manatees. Calves are preyed on by alligators, crocodiles, and sharks.
The ultimate source of Florida manatee information is the Save the Manatee Club
. The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission
also has information including photographs and mortality statistics.
If you see a sick, injured, or dead manatee call 1-888-404-FWCC (3922; Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission).
[ Mammal Index | Protected Mammals ]