Name: manatees are large, aquatic mammals which are sometimes known as ‘sea cows’. There are three species including the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis), the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), and the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis).
Appearance: manatees have long, thick bodies which end in paddle-shaped tails. They also have large, flexible lips which they use to gather food, eat, and communicate.
Size: manatees weigh up to 500 kg and typically measure around 2 to 3 metres long. Some have been recorded growing to almost 5 metres long!
Diet: they are herbivores that feed on freshwater and saltwater plants. To support their large bodies they need to graze for up to 7 hours a day.
Did you know: manatees are also called sea cows. This name comes from the fact that they are slow-moving plant-eaters, that graze on underwater grasses. They use their flippers to ‘walk’ along the bottom of rivers and seabeds. When they find food they use their flippers to scoop it towards their flexible lips. These specialised lips are similar to the trunks of elephants – a close relative of the manatees – and are used to tear the plant material apart and move it into their mouths. They can also use these lips to help find food and to communicate to other manatees.
Location: manatees inhabit the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico (West Indian manatee), the Amazon basin (Amazonian manatee), and West Africa (West African manatee).
Where to see Manatees
According to reports submitted to WildSide, you can see manatees in the following places:
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Photo credit: PublicDomainImages under a Creative Commons licence from Pixabay