What You Don’t Know About Manatees

Manatees, also known as sea cows, have a special place in every Floridian’s heart. While most of us love looking at these majestic creatures, how much do you really know about the interesting lives manatees lead. Here’s some facts you may not have known about manatees.

  • There are three surviving species of manatees: The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis), and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis). Unfortunately, all three species are at risk of extinction despite having no natural predators in the wild.close up of manatee face underwater
  • The closest living relative of the manatee is the elephant! They share a common ancestor, a land mammal, from over 50 million years ago.
  • Being mammals, manatees must breath air to survive. They typically swim to the water’s surface every three to five minutes, although manatees can hold their breath underwater for up to 20 minutes.
  • The ocean’s largest herbivores, it is the manatee’s very large stomach and intestines that make up it’s size, not body fat.
  • In fact, West Indian and West African manatees live in warm waters because they have very little fat that protects them from the cold, as well as low metabolic rates.
  • Manatees have four rows of teeth (about 24 to 32 teeth total) and, like their elephant relatives, they continuously lose and replace their teeth throughout their lives.
  • Female manatees are pregnant for about one year and babies stay with their mothers for another year to year and a half before they are able to survive on their own. two manatees playing underwater
  • Manatees are very leisurely swimmers, moving at a pace of only a couple miles per hour. However, they can swim up to 20 miles per hour if needed.
  • Because of manatee’s slow pace, they have trouble swimming out of the way of passing boats in time before getting hit. About half of West Indian manatee deaths are caused by boat collisions. As a result, many waterways in Florida have speed restrictions in place.
  • Under the Manatee Sanctuary Act, attempts by “any person at any time, by any means, or in any manner intentionally or negligently to annoy, molest, harass, or disturb or attempt to molest, harass, or disturb” manatees are outlawed. Violators could face a maximum fine of $500 and/or jail time up to 60 days.
  • But just looking at these amazing creatures in action is completely fine and legal! Take a trip to any of these locations to see these majestic animals yourself.