Manatees are large, entirely aquatic, mostly herbivorous maritime mammals that are also known as sea cows. There are three recognized living species of Trichechidae, depicting three of the four living species in the order Sirenia: the Amazonian manatee, the West Indian manatee, and the West African manatee.
Here are six fun facts about Manatees
- Colombus Found Humor Under Water: During his original journey to the Americas, Christopher Columbus caught sight of three mermaids, recording that “they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.”
- Mooh: Manatees are generally seen in depthless coastal areas and rivers where they feed on mangrove petals, algae, and seagrass. These herbivores chew food for almost half the day, eating ten percent of their body weight in plant mass every day. With weights of up to 1,200 pounds, that is lots and lots of food! Just like cows.
- Evolution: The nearest living relatives of sirenians are elephants. Manatees emerged from the same land animals as elephants over 50 million years ago. The fossil record reveals several groups of sirenians than we have today, with dugongs and manatees living together throughout their field.
- Neck: Manatees can’t twist their heads as we do. Manatees do not have the neck vertebra that other mammals have. It means that they must turn their complete bodies if they want to see around.
- Bimbo: Manatee brains are even (compared to our own that have the familiar ins and outs of cortical folds), and the proportion of their mind to their body size is the lowest of any mammal. They may not be as intelligent as dolphins, but manatees can learn basic tasks, are remarkably susceptible to touch and can distinguish colors.
- Bloody Humans: Manatees have no real predators in the wild, but humans have played a large part in getting all three species on the brink of extinction. Humans are responsible for over half West Indian Manatees deaths, and most are due to colliding with boats. Manatees are very buoyant and use their horizontally ordered diaphragm and breathing to regulate their buoyancy. This and their average speed of fewer than 6 miles per hour means that manatees are way too heavy to flee from the path of a fast boat.