MANATEE FACTS AND INFORMATION:
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
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.
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.
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.
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 their bodies,
and thick whiskers on their faces. It is not clear if this aids in
navigation. One expert is convinced however, that they know exactly
where swimmers are, even in black-out conditions.
Manatees can hear very well despite the absence of external ear lobes.
They are not believed to have the capabilities of echo-location.
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 sounds are
being produced or if they serve any other purpose.
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, and every 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.
Manatees are found in costal waterways, estuaries, salt-water bays,
rivers and canals, particularly where seagrass beds are located.
completely herbivorous and can eat 10-15% of their body weight daily.
In captivity they are fed lettuce and other greens, and given elephant
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 several
GET SANCTUARY IN FLORIDA
have a new sanctuary to resort to when they are feeling harassed by
eager tourists at Three Sisters Spring at Kings Bay in Crystal River,
Fla., reports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
sanctuary, which was set aside on a temporary, emergency basis last
November, covers less than one-fourth of an acre. It allows manatees to
retreat from people during their long winter stay in the
area. All waterborne activities are prohibited in the area from Nov. 15
through March 31 of each year.
sanctuaries were created after the Fish and Wildlife Service received
numerous reports of harassment for concerned citizens, researchers and
wildlife managers. Currently, there are six manatee sanctuaries in the
Crystal River's headwaters at Kings Bay that protect approximately 39
acres of essential manatee habitat. The sanctuaries were created to
provide manatees areas where they could retreat from people during
their winter-long stay in the area. According to the USFWS, Kings Bay
is the most important winter refuge for manatees on Florida's west
coast. More than 250 manatees are known to winter here and the manatee
population is slowly increasing.
River dive shop owners and marina operators inform their customers
about the crucial importance of such things as observing boat speed
limits in manatee zones, not feeding manatees, and avoiding interaction
that disrupts the species' normal patterns of activity. Local dive shop
operators provide their customers with videos and handouts that
describe "manatee-friendly" ways to interact with manatees.