WHAT IS A MANATEE?
The manatee is far from being attractive as sea creatures go, yet it is said by some to have inspired the mythical stories of mermaids amongst sailors. Tragically, the manatee is now one of the most endangered of aquatic animals.
The harmless and gentle manatee has been exploited by man for its meat and hide since the eighteenth century, but thankfully it is now listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union. While it has legal protection in most countries where it lives, this is not always enforced.
What do manatees eat?
Because of the type of sea grass eaten by the manatee – combined with the fact that it often takes in large quantities of sand with each mouthful – the manatee’s teeth wear down very quickly. To compensate for this, the teeth are constantly replaced. New teeth are formed at the back of the mouth and move forward at the rate of 1mm a month to push out worn front teeth at regular intervals.
The manatee needs an immense amount of food in order to maintain its great weight of up to 680kg! To achieve this, it will eat between 8% and 15% of its own body weight each day.
The dense bulk of the manatee helps to keep it steady in the water as it feeds. It usually feeds submerged, but will occasionally rise above the water.
Where do manatees live?
Although usually occurring singly or in small family groups, during cold spells in tropical waters manatees will gather in larger numbers, around a heated discharge of a power plant or the warmer outflow of a spring. They hang vertical in the water in the cold of the early morning with little more than their snouts showing, but as the sun gets hotter, more of their bodies become visible ate the surface.
It is in such groups as these hat manatee have been observed pressing their big snouts together. This is though to be a gesture of greeting.
As a mammal, the manatee has to come to the surface to breath. It appears to be able to remain submerges for up to about 15 minutes, but generally surface at five to ten minute intervals. It cannot survive out of the water, partly because it is unable to move. And because its body weight makes it impossible for it to breath without the support of the water.
1. The manatee was given its name by Spanish colonists in the West Indies from the words ‘mano’ meaning hand, and ‘tener’ meaning to hold.
2. As members of the Sirenian family – manatees and the related dugong – are the only, mammals that eat sea vegetation. This is why they are known as sea cows. 3.The intestines of a manatee are over 45m long!
4. The manatee’s mouth is extremely sensitive to touch. It uses it for searching for food, and communicating with other manatees. This form of bonding is called mouthing.
5. The Amazonian manatee is able to survive with out eating for up to six months during the dry season, when plants are scarce.
6. Nearly all mammals have seven neck vertebrae. The manatee has only six.
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Images care of http://www.cryptomundo.com/cryptozoo-news/pinky-manatee/ and http://honorsbiologyreviewgroup1.wikispaces.com/Manatee+Evolution and http://stephaniehenkel.hubpages.com/hub/Manatees-at-Blue-Spring-State-Park-Florida and http://www.bio.davidson.edu/people/midorcas/animalphysiology/websites/2003/Harshaw/page3.htm
Based on an article from MXM IMP BV/IMP LTD WILDLIFE FACTS