|DESCRIPTION : Large,
seal-like body that tapers to a powerful flat tail. Two agile forelimbs with
three to four toenails on each, which act like arms to help the manatee maneuver in
shallow water, grasp
and move food toward their mouths, and act like flippers during swimming. Thick and
wrinkled skin with
a rough texture - a bit jiggly under the neck and arms. Their skin reacts to touch, as
their bodies are very
muscular, contracting and changing shape slightly when scratched or tickled. Powerful
upper lips which
articulate to help maneuver food or dig through sediment.
SIZE : Average 9 to 10 feet long, weighing around
1,000 lbs.. Can grow as large as 13 feet and weigh
more than 3,000 lbs. Calves are born weighing about 40 lbs, gaining about 700 lbs. during
their first year.
BEHAVIOR : Gentle and slow-moving. Most of
the time is spent eating vegetation (100-150 lbs. per day),
resting, and traveling. On average manatees can travel about 40 to 50 miles a day,
sometimes farther. Chessie, the famed manatee rescued from the cold waters of the
Chesapeake Bay and returned to Florida, was tagged with a locating device which showed he
traveled as far as Rhode Island during hot summer months.
SIGHT : Some people believe Manatees are
near-sighted, or may have limited depth perception. It is
believed that they can differentiate between colors. It is unclear how manatees navigate
in pitch black or
murky waters - when their eyesight would be of no use. They do have sparse body hair over
and thick whiskers on their faces. It is not clear if this aids in navigation. One expert
however, that they know exactly where swimmers are, even in black-out conditions.
HEARING : Manatees can hear very well
despite the absence of external ear lobes. They are not
believed to have the capabilities of echo-location.
COMMUNICATIONS : Emit sounds that are
within human auditory range. They make sounds such as
squeaks and squeals when frightened, playing, or communicating, particularly between cow
and calf. No
air is released from the manatee when these sounds are made, and it is not clear where the
being produced or if they serve any other purpose.
BREATHING : Manatees are mammals and
breath air through their noses at the surface - with nostrils
which close tightly when submerged. They breath every few minutes when active or swimming,
10 to 15 minutes when resting. They are capable of exchanging 98% of their lungs capacity
in one breath.
Their lungs are very large, and are also used for buoyancy control. The rushing sound of a
deep exhale and
breath sound much like a snorkler. This sound, and the associated "footprint"
left by the manatees tail and
body at the surface are clues which reveal the presence of manatees in the area.
HABITAT AND FOOD : Manatees are found in
costal waterways, estuaries, salt-water bays, rivers and
canals, particularly where seagrass beds are located. Manatees are completely herbivorous
and can eat 10-15% of their body weight daily. In captivity they are fed lettuce and other
greens, and given elephant vitamins.
REPRODUCTION : Females mature around 5 to
9 years of age, and males not until 6 to 9 years of age.
It is believed that one calf is born every 2 to 5 years. Twins are rare in the wild.
Gestation period is around
13 months. Newborns weigh approximately 40 pounds at birth and stay with the mother for