Celeste's Animal Exploration


Florida Manatee

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Name: Trichechus manatus latirostris

Weight: 440 to 1,300 lbs; females tend to be larger than the males

Length: 8.9 to 11 ft

Population: approximately 5,000 (this is a corrected number over what I tell you in the video, which was based on an earlier census)

Physical Description: gray bodies (with variations on this, including a muddy brown)

Habitat: coastal waters of Florida and freshwater springs in Florida

polar bear resting on a toyWhere: Florida

Fun facts: The largest manatee of this kind on record weighs 3,650 lbs and is 15 ft long, in short bursts manatees can go 15 miles per hour.

The Florida manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee, which has a larger range, including Florida, Georgia, and parts of South America.

The manatee (not just the Florida variety) is part of the larger family of Sirenia, named for Sirens, mythical half-human, half-fish beings who were known for their singing, a skill so powerful that it would lure sailors onto rocky shoals, where their ships would crash and the sailors would die. This was, of course, not true, but so little was known of sea life in ancient times that people often imagined or invented stories for things they did not understand.

Social activities: Groups of no more than 2 to 6 occasionally are seen. Usually, manatees are loners except for mothers and their calves (of which there is usually only 1)

Why are they endangered? Red tide and cold water cause illnesses that manatees can die from. Also, illegal poaching and boat strikes are typical causes of manatee deaths.

polar bear nappingWhat are the conservation efforts? There are now laws against killing manatees, rehabilitation programs for manatees, and education programs about manatees. The rehabilitation program involves zoos and aquariums around the country which take in injured manatees, nurse them back to help, and then, if possible, release the manatees back into the wild.

Predators: Orcas and large sharks can eat manatees, but the manatees' habitat of close-in coastal waters makes this a rare event. Otherwise, their greatest danger comes from humans who are not careful about hitting manatees with boats and other water vehicles, which these slow moving, yet graceful, animals cannot avoid.

Prey: Manatees are herbivores. Their only prey is sea plants. However, they are sloppy eaters and a do a good job of chewing up these plants to make food for smaller animals, fish, who take advantage of the crumbs left by manatees.



Good books:

The Florida Manatee: Biology and Conservation by Roger L. Reep and Robert K. Bonde(November 1, 2010)

Past Animals

Polar Bear

Black-footed Ferret

Florida Panther

Snow Leopards