Manatee Facts

Manatees are marine mammals that live in the warm waters of Florida and other tropical areas. They have long bodies with webbed feet and a large head. Their tail is used to propel them through the water.

Manatees are also called sea cows. They are herbivores (plant eaters). They eat sea grass that they find on the ocean floor.

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Manatee Facts for Kids

  • Manatees are herbivores
  • Manatees can live 50 to 60 years
  • Baby manatees are called calves
  • They can hold their breath for about 20 minutes
  • They travel between 40-50 miles every day
  • They can eat around 100 pounds of food every day

Types of Manatees

There are three species of manatee

West Indian Manatee

The West Indian manatee, also known as the North American manatee (Florida manatee), is a large, aquatic mammal that lives alone or in herds and feeds on underwater plants. It is one of several endangered species that face pressure from habitat loss, pollution, and other human activity.

They inhabit shallow coastal areas, including rivers and estuaries, and can withstand large changes in salinity.

The Florida manatee occurs only in coastal and inland waters of the southeastern United States and is confined to the southern two-thirds of the Florida Peninsula in winter.

They face several threats, including loss of seagrass, cold stress, and collisions with boats.

Amazonian manatee

The Amazonian manatee has thin, wrinkled skin, fine hairs scattered over its body, and a white chest patch.

They are the smallest member of the manatee family and can be distinguished by their smoother rubbery skin and lack of vestigial nails on their flippers. It is grey and has a white or bright pink patch on the breast.

They eat aquatic macrophytes, including aroids, grasses, bladderworts, hornworts, water lilies, and water hyacinths, and maintain a post-gastric digestive process similar to the horse.

African manatee

The African manatee, also known as the West African manatee, is a species of manatee found in Africa.

They inhabit many habitats, including oceans, rivers, lakes, coastal estuaries, reservoirs, lagoons, and bays on the coast, and are rarely found in waters below 18°C (64°F).

They can be found in many places, including the Inner Niger River Delta in Mali, Lake Volta, Lake Léré, and Lake de Tréné. They move up rivers until they cannot continue because of shallow waters or strong waterfalls.

Manatees are herbivores, but they also eat clams, mollusks, and fish found in nets. The West African manatee is the only sirenian that seems to consume non-plant material intentionally.

Where do Manatees Live?

The manatee lives in shallow rivers and estuaries. They are also found in canals and coastal areas. Manatees have no issues going from fresh to salt water. Most Florida manatees reside in Florida, but they can travel north as far as Virginia.

What do Manatees Eat?

Adult manatees typically eat 10%–15% of their body weight per day (about 50 kg) using their divided upper lip. A typical day consists of eating grass, aquatic vegetation, and other plants for six to nine hours.

This wet vegetation provides them with moisture and nutrients.

How Big are Manatees?

An adult measures 9-10 feet long and weighs about 1,000 pounds. They can grow up to 13 feet and weigh over 3,500 pounds. The male manatee is typically larger than the female manatee.

How long can a manatee hold its breath?

It is estimated that they can hold their breath for about 20 minutes at a time.

They Are Very Slow

Swimming speeds for manatees are between 3 and 5 mph. They can reach up to 20 mph when they need, but this is just for a short time. They travel a distance of about 40 to 50 miles every day.