Manatees, also known as sea cows, are endangered species that are fascinating to learn about. From feeding and lifestyle to possible myths inspired by them, these gentle creatures are full of surprises.
Fun Facts about Manatees
Related to the elephant, manatees are remarkable aquatic mammals that come in many varieties around the world. They can be found around Central and South America along with Florida in the United States. These 10-foot sea cows prefer to live where seagrass or freshwater vegetation can be found. These beauties are migratory beasts that couldn’t hurt a fly. Though they may not be much to look at, they are fascinating to study. Don’t believe us? Read on to learn more.
- “Manatee” is thought to come from one of two languages. One is Carib, a language that originates from South America. In Carib, the manatee’s name means “udder.” The other language is Latin, where its name means “having hands.” This could be referring to the flippers.
- Many believe that manatees and other similar creatures are the basis for the creation of mermaids. The reasoning behind this is because the mammals can be mistaken for humans from a distance. They possess forelimbs with 5 sets of bones that resemble human digits. Manatees can also do “tail stands” in areas where the water is shallow. They are one of four species listed as “Sirenia,” a vertebrate order named after the mythical creatures known as the sirens.
- What many call a manatee is one of three species of the creature that exists. Technically, the Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian kind. The others are termed the West African manatee and the Amazonian manatee.
- Because they are mammals, these sea cows need to breathe air like you and me. Though they are known to hold their breath for almost 20 minutes if needed, they usually resurface about every 5 minutes or so to breathe.
- They are nicknamed “sea cows” due to feasting on a variety of fresh and saltwater plants. These herbivores are known for munching nearly 7 hours per day, consuming anywhere from 7% to 15% of their weight in food! When you weigh around 1,000 pounds, that’s a big salad!
- Unlike humans, manatees take after their elephant relatives by constantly replacing their teeth. Older teeth that fall out are replaced by newer ones growing in the back! That comes in handy when you spend so much of your life munching away on tasty plants.
- Despite their roly-poly appearance, manatees don’t handle the cold well. 60-degree water is their preferred temperature to live comfortably. Low metabolism paired with almost no fat protection, their bodies of mostly intestines and stomach will quickly say if the cold is bothering them as they search for warmer waters.
- After being pregnant for about a year, a manatee mom and calf will stay together anywhere from two to four years. They have a deep loving bond that lasts almost double that of other marine mammals. It makes sense that these gentle giants would also make for kind, caring mothers.
Manatees are sweet marine creatures that should be protected at all costs. They are gentle creatures that want to care for their young and munch on plants all day. That’s why so many organizations and individuals are doing all they can to keep these mermaid-wannabes safe and secure in their environments. If you’re interested in assisting with the preservation of this endangered species, do some research on places near you that can get you started on your journey.