The Manatee is also known as a sea cow or the Trichechus. They are very large marine mammals that range in weight from 440-1,300 pounds. The manatee is more closely related to elephants than dolphins and whales. They are herbivores meaning they eat only plants.
An adult manatee will eat all types of water grasses, weeds, and algae. Manatees range from 8-13 feet long. The average life of a manatee lasts 40 years. Manatees are graceful swimmers in coastal waters and rivers. They are usually slower swimmers, coasting at about 5 mph but can also swim up to 15 mph for short periods of time because of their strong tail. More often than not, a manatee will swim in pairs or by themselves but sometimes will swim in groups of up to six. Manatees don’t ever leave the water, but like all other marine mammals, have to breathe air from the surface of the water. Usually, a manatee that isn’t moving or is going very slow, can last up to 15 minutes underwater without surfacing for air.
If swimming though, they will likely have to surface for air about every 3-4 minutes. There are three species of manatee, all based off of where they live. If you live in the United States, especially on the East Coast near Florida, the manatee that you might see there would be the West Indian manatee.
The West Indian manatee usually ranges along the North American East Coast from Florida to Brazil. The West Indian manatee can weigh up to 1,400 pounds. The Amazonian manatee species lives along the Amazon River. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Amazonian manatees range of where they live is estimated to be around 2.7 million square miles. The African manatee lives along the West Coast and in the rivers of Africa. Like other marine mammals, manatees are born underwater. After they are born, their mother has to give their manatee calf assistance in getting them to the surface so they are able to take their first breath.
After this though, manatee calves are usually able swim on their own an hour later. Manatee calves will drink their mother’s’ milk while adults are insatiable grazers. In only 24 hours, a manatee is capable of eating a tenth of its very large weight.
That’s about 130 pounds. Because manatees are large and slow-moving animals that swim along coastal waters and rivers, they are extremely vulnerable to hunters. Manatees are hunted for their hides, oils, and bones. Through the last century, manatee numbers have greatly declined because of all the hunters. Manatees are protected by laws but are still endangered today. Manatees are also often be hit accidentally by motorboats in crowded waters and sometimes are caught in fishing nets.
Like all other endangered species, if we want to see the manatee 100 years from now, we need to protect it better.