101 Facts About Manatees


Manatee
  • North American manatees are the same species as the West Indian manatee.  
  • The manatee in North America is the largest member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia.
  • The North American manatee is a species distinct from the Amazonian manatee and the African manatee.
  • Recent genetic research suggests that the West Indian manatee consists of three groups, which are geographically distributed. 
  • In the 1970s the North America manatee was listed among the endangered species. At that time, there were only a hundred left.
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Manatee and baby
  • To be able to conserve the North America manatee, it has been of significant conservation to federal, state, private, and nonprofit organizations to protect these species from natural and human-induced threats such as collisions with boats. 
  • The average North America manatee is about 2.7-3.5 m long and weighs 200-600 kg.
  • The female North American manatee is different to most mammals, in that it is larger than the males.
  • Manatees are mammals; hence, they breathe air, have a warm body, have hair, and give birth to live young.
  • The North America manatee has adapted fully to aquatic life, having no hind limbs.
  • Manatees have a spatula-like paddle for propulsion in the water, instead of hind limbs. 
  • The manatees have decreased resistance in the aquatic environment due to their evolved streamlined bodies which lack external ear flaps.
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Manatee
  • The manatee has pelage, which is sparsely distributed across the body. This helps manatees in reducing the growth of algae on their thick skin.
  • Manatee skin is grey, but this can vary due to coloration with algae and other biotas like barnacles.
  • Manatees are easy to identify because their scar tissue is white and persists for decades.
  • The manatee is unique in comparison to other mammals. They have a longitudinally oriented diaphragm which spits in half to form two Hemi diaphragms, and each membrane is capable of independent muscular contractions.
  • The North American manatees live in shallow coastal areas.
  • The manatee is known to withstand significant changes in water salinity, and have been found in shallow rivers and estuaries. 
  • The North American manatee can live in fresh, brackish, and saline water.
  • The North America manatees have a prehensile snout for grabbing vegetation and bringing it into their mouths.
  • The manatee has six to eight molariform teeth in each jaw quadrant.
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Manatee
  • The manatees bone is dense and reliable, which allows them to act as ballast and promote negative buoyancy. 
  • The manatees can float, as there is two opposing buoyancy in manatee’s body, the negative buoyancy and positive buoyancy which comes from their high-fat content. These two buoyancy counterparts, along with the air in the lungs, help manatees achieve neutral buoyancy in the water. 
  • The North American manatees are limited to tropics and subtropics due to a meager metabolic rate and lack of a thick layer of insulating body fat. 
  • The North America manatee is agile in water, and individuals have been seen doing somersaults, and even swimming upside-down.
  • The manatees have no territory barriers and do not have complex predator avoidance behavior; they have evolved in areas without natural predators.
  • The manatee has no common predator as most marine mammals do. Killer whale and large sharks are not in habitats which are inhabited by this species.
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  • The manatees share the characteristic of phenomenal communication with their relative, the elephant.
  • Scientists say that manatees form long periods of mating, heard when wandering males come across estrous females. This indicates the possibility that males can sense the estrogen or other chemical indicators from females.
  • Manatees communicate information to each other through their vocalization patterns according to scientists.
  • Female and male manatees differ, in that there are sex and age-related differences in the vocalization structure of universal squeaks and screeches in adult males, adult females, and juveniles.
  • There is an increase in manatee vocalization after a vocal playback stimulus, which is an indication that they can recognize another individual manatee voice.
  • The manatees exhibit human characteristics when communicating in a loud environment. They will involuntary increase their vocal effort when communicating in noisy environments.
  • The manatees eat other manatee’s feces. Manatees do so to gather information about the reproductive status or dominance.
  • The manatee feeds on plants and is herbivores. Manatees feed on over 60 species of aquatic plants in both fresh and saltwater. 
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  • Manatees may also feed on grass and leaves when the tide is high enough.
  • The North America manatees also feed on some fish and invertebrates.
  • The manatee eating capacity is dependent on its size and activity level.
  • Per day, the manatee will graze for 5 or more hours consuming anywhere from 4% of their body weight in wet vegetation.
  • The manatee is a non-ruminant with an enlarged hindgut.
  • The manatee has a large gastrointestinal tract, with contents measuring about 23 % of its total body mass.
  • The manatee has sensitive tactile hairs that cover their bodies and faces referred to as vibrissae.
  • The vibrissae are blood-filled sinuses bound by a dense connective tissue capsule with sensitive nerve endings which provides haptic feedback to the manatee.
  • Most vibrissae in mammals are located on the facial regions of terrestrial and non-sirenian aquatic animals. They are also called whiskers.
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Manatee
  • The manatee mouth consists of very loose prehensile lips, with its function for grasping food and objects.
  • The manatee uses the vibrissae on the lips to locate vegetation after turning the whiskers outward when grasping.
  • The vibrissae in manatees are essential as they can perform active touch discrimination of textures and navigate the turbid waters of their environment.
  • Research shows that the manatee uses the vibrissae to detect hydrodynamic stimuli in the same way that fish uses their lateral line system.
  • Despite North American manatees mostly being solitary creatures, they form mating herds while in estrus.
  • The female manatee first breeds successfully between the ages of seven and nine. However, they are capable of breeding as early as the age of four.
  • The male manatee reaches sexual maturity at the age of three to four, which is earlier than female manatees.
  • Manatees have a gestation period of 12 to 14 months.
Manatee
  • The female manatee usually gives birth to one calf, but on rare occasions, they give birth to two. 
  • The newborn calf already has molars and is able to consume seagrass within the first three weeks of birth.
  • Manatees will have an average of five and seven offspring between the ages of 20 to 26.
  • The newborn calf weighs 60-70 Ib and grows up to 4 to 4.5 ft.
  • The manatee lives in a family unit consisting of a mother and calf, and they remain together for up to two years. 
  • The male manatee gathers in mating herds around a female when she is ready to mate, but contribute no parental care to the calf.
  • The North America manatee has been hunted for hundreds of years. They are hunted for meat and hide.
  • The manatee is in danger due to the environmental stress such as red tide and cold waters which cause health problem to manatees such as immunosuppression and even death,
  • The manatee’s death is also as a result of both large and small boats. Boats hit them, and they can die instantly. 
Manatee
  • Manatees are not able to quickly move away from an oncoming boat.
  • The manatee is found mostly in shallow coastal areas and rivers. They live in these areas because they can discover seagrass, mangrove leaves, and algae to eat.
  • North America manatees spend their lives on the cusp between salty and fresh water. They can maintain the correct balance in their bodies through an internal regulation system that works with the kidney to make sure salt concentrations never get too high.
  • North America manatee live in warm water, which is essential.
  • Manatees have metabolic rates and minimal fat to protect them from cold water; they stick to water that is 60 degrees or warmer.
  • Although manatees look insulated, the largest part of their body is made up of their stomach and intestines.
  • During cold seasons the manatees find their way to warm river tributes or warm water outputs from local power plants.
  • Manatees go to the surface of the water after every three to five minutes to breathe. They can remain under the water for up to 20 minutes.
  • The manatees have no natural predators in the wild. Humans are the only species who have endangered the existence of manatees. 
Manatee
  • Manatee’s brains are smooth, and the ratio of their brain to their body size is the lowest of any mammal. 
  • Manatees are believed to be sirenians. Out of that, Sirenians are animals in the Order Sirenia, which includes manatees, the extinct sea cows. 
  • The manatee communicates with squeaking, squealing sounds. They are vocal animals, with individual vocalizations.
  • The manatee makes sounds to communicate fear or anger, when socializing, and to find each other such as a calf looking for its mother. 
  • Manatees communicate with each other through touch, sound, smell, taste, hearing, and sight.
  • Manatees have an average life span of 40 years.
  • Scientists believe that the manatee has evolved from a four-legged land mammal that lived sixty million years ago.
  • Manatees have good sight and excellent hearing capabilities. They can hear something approaching while it is far away. They can easily see sea plants under the water. 
  • Their eyes are small and have a special membrane for protecting their eyes. Their eyes are not easily damaged by the seawater vegetation.
Manatee
  • Manatees lack outer ear structures, but they have large inner bones which assist in their excellent hearing ability.
  • The manatee cannot quickly turn their heads sideways. Unlike other mammals, the manatee has six neck vertebrae, whereas most have seven.
  • The term manatee comes from the Carib word MANTI, meaning breast or udder.
  • The manatee has a powerful tail they use to swim for short bursts at 15 mph.
  • Manatees are nearsighted and can see in blue, green and gray but not red or in blue-green combinations.
  • Manatees utilize most of their time eating, resting and traveling,
  • The North America manatees are protected under the federal law by the marine mammal protection Act of 1972 and the endangered species Act of 1973.
Manatee
  • Manatee hunting is illegal in North America. No one is allowed to hunt, capture, or kill a manatee. The violation of these laws could lead to a conviction of civil or criminal acts.
  • Manatees cannot survive in cold water. Therefore when it is cold, manatees migrate to shallow, slow-moving rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters.
  • In the summer, manatees move freely around the Florida rivers and coastal waters. This is because of the warmer waters.
  • The manatee is one of the marine animals which its skeleton is available for tourists to view in the North Carolina Museum OF Natural Science in Raleigh, North Carolina.
  • Manatees will eat up to 1/10th of its body weight in 24 hours, which stands up to around 59 kilos.
  • Manatees are also called sea cows.
  • Manatees are a sizeable marine mammal with strange egg-shaped heads, flat tails, and flipper. Their flippers are essentially their forearms.  
  • The manatee has a close relative on land, the elephant.
Manatee
  • The manatee can grow big. They can grow up to 13 feet long, but usually, they are up to 8 feet in length.
  • The manatee can weigh as much as 200 to 600 kilograms.
  • The North American manatees are mostly found in sea and ocean waters, and more rarely in river flowing waters.
  • The manatees are not territorial by nature, and they do not have a group leader. They prefer to stay alone or sometimes in pairs.
  • When manatees come together in one place, it is usually to enjoy an abundant supply of food and enjoy warmer waters.
  • Manatee conservation is advocated for as their population could be at risk.
  • Humans contribute significantly to the endangerment of the manatees through activities conducted in their habitats.

Manatees are one of Floridas most iconic animals. If you would like to find out about some of the other mammals of Florida, I have an article on my Top 25 mammals of Florida. You can read it here.

Bryan Harding

Bryan has spent his whole life around animals. While loving all animals, Bryan is especially fond of mammals and has studied and worked with them around the world. Not only does Bryan share his knowledge and experience with our readers, but he also serves as owner, editor, and publisher of North American Mammals.

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