10 Cool Facts about Manatees

Marine & Oceanic Sustainability Foundation fan, 7-year-old Ava, asked us to write about her favorite underwater animal, the manatee. When we asked Ava why she liked manatees, she told us, “I like their cute faces and want to know why they are vegetarians like my momma.” Well, we don’t know why they are vegetarians, but we love their cute faces too and we’ve dug up 10 cool facts about manatees for you.

  1. ManateesManatees are large, gray mammals that live in the water. They have a flat, paddle-shaped tail and have two flippers. Manatees can grow to be up to 13 ft. (4 m) long and weigh as much as 1,300 lbs. (590 kg).
  2. Even though they live in the water, manatees are more closely related to elephants and hyraxes than sea lions and whales. (Hyraxes are small, thickset animals that resemble gophers. They don’t look anything like elephants or manatees. Crazy, huh?)
  3. Just like all marine mammals, manatees have to come to the surface to breathe air. A resting manatee can hold its breath for up to 15 minutes, but when it’s swimming, it must surface every 3 or 4 minutes.
  4. Manatees have good eyesight even though their eyes are pretty small. Also, you can’t see any ears on the outside, but manatees also have good hearing. This is because they have large inner ear bones.florida-manatee
  5. Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – especially where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation thrive. Manatees are most commonly found in and around the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon Basin and West Africa.
  6. Although manatees typically swim at about 3 to 5 mph (5 to 8 kph), they have been known to swim for short bursts at 19 mph (30 kph).  They are acrobatic and graceful swimmers and can do somersaults, rolls, and swim upside down.
  7. Manatee moms are pregnant for about 11 to 13 months and their babies, called calves, weigh about 60 pounds (27 kg) when they are born. The mothers must take their newborn calves to the water’s surface for their first breath, but the little ones can usually swim on their own after about an hour. Calves are dependent on their mothers for about two years.
  8. Adult manatees have a big appetite – they eat LOTS of water grasses, weeds, and algae. In fact, a manatee can eat a tenth of its own weight in just 24 hours – that a lot of plants!
  9. Manatees can live up to 60 years, but their average lifespan in the wild is about 40 years.many_Manatee
  10. Manatees are a federally listed endangered species in the United States. In other words, there aren’t a lot of them left in the wild. One reason for this is that manatees reproduce very slowly – in fact, the time between generations is about 20 years. Humans need to be very careful around manatees. These gentle animals are often injured during collisions with speedboats and by accidentally getting caught in the nets of fishermen. Fortunately, we are learning more about them every day and teaching others how to live near them while ensuring their safety and health.
Learn More About The Crystal River Manatee