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Quick Facts
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Sirenia
Family: Trichechidae
Genus: Trichechus
Species: manatus

Length: 108 - 168 inches
Weight: 400 - 3000 lbs
Gestation: 365 - 425 days
Offspring: 1
Life Span: 60 years

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West Indian Manatee

Trichechus manatus

Also Called: Sea Cow


The West Indian manatee is a uniform gray or brown color. The female manatee is usually larger than the male. A manatee can weigh as much as 3000 pounds (though this is rare), and the average is between 400 and 800 pounds. Manatees are somewhat seal shaped but they are adapted to a completely aquatic lifestyle. They have lungs that extend the length of their body and aid in depth control. They have a sparse hair covering and their skin sloughs off continuously. This is thought to deterWhat does deter mean? algae growth. Due to eating rough grasses, the molars of a manatee are constantly being worn down and being replaced throughout the course of their lives. One distinctive feature of the manatee is a split upper lip. Both parts of their lip are flexible and they use them to help put food in their mouths. The West Indian manatee is an agile swimmer and is capable of complex maneuvers. They are active day and night and rest for long periods between feeding. It is possible that manatees have been mistaken as swimming people and given rise to the legend of mermaids.


West Indian manatees feed primarily on sea grasses. They will however eat leave off of plants and small invertebratesWhat does invertebrates mean? and fish. Because grasses aren't very nutritious they must eat large quantities every day. This has also given them a very slow metabolism.


The West Indian manatee is found on the southern coast of the United States and as far south as Brazil. They live in shallow waters off the coast or in rivers and estuaries.


The manatee has no natural predatorsWhat does predators mean?. Most manatee deaths are the result of human activity. In some places, they are hunted for food. The primary human cause of manatee deaths is motor boat accidents. They are also harmed by water pollution that kills their food sources.


The West Indian manatee is a very solitaryWhat does solitary mean? creature. They live in an area with no natural predatorsWhat does predators mean? and never developed a grouping system for protection. The only stable group within the manatee population is that of a mother and her calf. Other than that, the only time manatees congregate is during mating. At this time, breeding males will join in groups and follow the receptive female. Juveniles who are too young to breed will sometimes form groups as well. For the rest of the year, manatees live alone. They are not territorial and have no social hierarchyWhat does hierarchy mean?.


Female West Indian manatees give birth to one calf after about a one-year gestationWhat does gestation mean? period. The calf will stay with its mother for the next two years. A young manatee is able to forageWhat does forage mean? for solid food after about 3 weeks.

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