In honor of World Manatee Awareness Day, we are answering the most frequently asked questions about these little known endangered animals. On Manatee Appreciation Day we are not only celebrating their beauty but also reflecting on the human impact on our oceans.
You can do your part by sharing this article about facts on manatee with your scuba diving friends or get one of the best manatee gifts for a birthday or the next holiday. The more people know about manatees, the better.
1. Do Manatees Have Teeth?
Manatees have a very interesting set of teeth. All their teeth are molars, perfect for grinding up the underwater vegetation that makes up their diet. Their diet causes teeth erosion because of all the sand caught in the plants.
Their dentures are adapted to this which is why they are continually being replaced – new molars grow in the back of their jaw and gradually move forward in their mouth as the older teeth in the front fall out.
2. What Do Manatee Eat?
Manatees are herbivores meaning that manatees usually eat plants. Since Manatees habitat is in both freshwater and saltwater, they can eat both freshwater and saltwater plants.
When swimming in freshwater environments like the Amazonian manatee, they eat plants like alligator weed, pickerelweed, water celery, and musk grass. When in the ocean, the manatee diet consists of seagrasses and marine algae.
3. Where Do Manatees Live?
The habitat of a manatee can be in both freshwaters like rivers and the sea and oceans. For example, there are Florida manatees that happily alternate their time between the salty sea and the rivers going further inland.
4. Do Manatee Breathe Underwater?
A manatee is a marine mammal which means that they do not have gills to breathe underwater. Like most marine mammals, manatees often stay underwater for a considerable amount of time but have to resurface for air, even when they are sleeping.
5. Dugong vs Manatee
Manatees & Dugongs are often confused with each other but they really are different species. The easiest way to spot the difference between a manatee and a dugong is by the shape of their flippers and snouts.
Manatee tails are more similar to a beavertail while dugongs have similar flippers to dolphins. The snout of a manatee is broader and faces down while the snout of a dugong has a divided upper lip.
6. Are Manatees Endangered?
One of the important facts about manatees is that they are no longer endangered but still have threatened populations. This marine mammal was on the endangered species list from 1967 – 2017 and has been on the threatened animal’s list since then.
7. How Big is the Population of Manatees?
The current estimate for manatee populations is 13,000 worldwide. The largest population is the West Indian manatee of which there are two sub-species.
The West Indian manatee roams around the Caribbean, eastern Mexico, and the eastern nations of Central America. The other subspecies, the Florida manatee is found in the southeastern states of the United States.
8. How Long Does a Manatee Live?
As there are no natural predators of manatees, the manatee lifespan is quite long. Without humans affecting their natural habitat, these ‘sea cows’ can live up to 60 years or even longer.
Unfortunately, the destruction of their habitats is mostly due to human threats to their environment, especially in the United States. Common causes of deaths include collisions with boats, wounds from entanglement with fishing materials, or ingesting fish hooks and trash in the water.
9. Are Manatees Dangerous?
Manatees are not dangerous mammals. One of the fun facts about manatees is that they are curious and social creatures that can be found swimming and interacting with human divers.
10. Are Manatees Mammals?
Yes, manatees are mammals that live in water. There are both freshwater manatee and sea manatee.
Female adults nurse their manatee babies for up to two years which is much longer compared to most land mammals. Manatees are also unable to breathe underwater which is why they come up to the surface for short bursts.
11. How Big Is a Manatee?
The manatee size is perhaps what led to the name sea cow. Adults can grow as long as 10 feet with a bodyweight of up to 1100 pounds.
12. What Do Manatees Look Like?
Once upon a time, manatees were mistaken for mermaids but their large bodies make them look nothing like these mythical sea creatures. Elephants are their closest relative and you can see some of the similarities in their droopy grey skin.
Manatees have a large droopy head with a downward-facing mouth. Their long bulky slow-moving bodies taper into a paddle-like tail and they have two shorter forelimbs.
13. What Are the Species of Manatee?
There are three species of manatee; the West Indian manatee, the West African manatee, and the Amazon manatee. These three Sirenia species are distinguished by their geographic location.
West Indian manatees roam around the eastern coast of Central America and southeast US (this includes the Florida manatee). African manatees are found on the west coast of Africa, including the rivers and the Amazon manatee swims in the Amazon river of South America.
14. Are Manatees Friendly?
Manatees are known to be friendly animals, even when met in the wild. Their behavior is similar to that of dolphin s, filled with curiosity for humans and a playful character.
15. How Can You Help Protect Manatees?
You can help manatees by creating awareness about how they are at risk and how habitat destruction affects their survival rates. You can get involved with the Save the Manatee Club, raise funds for research and habitat protection or even adopt a manatee.
Protecting manatees starts with being more aware of how our daily lives, including the food we eat, affects the health of the ocean and rivers where manatees are swimming. What can we do as individuals to take better care of the seas and the species living in it?