Manatees may look like the Eeyores of the sea, but they’re really interesting animals.
Check out all these cool facts:
- Manatees live in shallow coastal waters and rivers, feeding on sea grass and algae.
- As herbivores, they can eat about ten percent of their body weight every day, and are chomping a good portion of the day.
A West Indian manatee, always curious, investigates a kayak in Florida. (Mwanner via Wikimedia Commons)
- West Indian and West African manatees need warm water because they have low metabolic rates and very little fat to protect them from cold.
- The large body of those manatees is mostly made up of the stomach and intestines, making them look like they have much more body fat than they really do.
- In 2010, almost 250 manatees died in Florida due to cold stress.
- Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes, but they generally go to the surface every 3-5 minutes to breath.
- Due to their secretive nature and the murky water in the Amazon Basin, its hard to know how many Amazonian manatees there are in existence.
The dugong, in the same order as manatees, has a distinctive snout and a fluked tail.
(Julien Willem via Wikimedia Commons)
- The closest living relatives of manatees are elephants.
- Manatees evolved from a land animal, a common ancestor with the elephant, over 50 million years ago.
- Manatees are continuously replacing their teeth throughout their lives with the older teeth falling out as new ones grow in.
- Many encounters by explorers like Christopher Columbus with creatures they described as mermaids, are now believed to have been with manatees.
- The ratio of brain to body size in the manatee is the smallest of all mammals.
- Manatees give birth to one calf every 2 to 5 years, and it nurses with mother for 2 years.
- A baby manatee will start eating plants at only a few weeks old.
The most interesting fact about manatees is that they have no natural predators in the wild, but human activity has threatened many species. Interaction with tourists and watercraft are harmful, but easily preventable.
Learn more about what you can do to protect manatees in the wild.
H/T to the Smithsonian