West Indian Manatee

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West Indian Manatee

Trichechus manatus 

Range/Geographical Distribution: Along the mid-Atlantic coastal region of the United States through the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico south to the coastal parts of north and central-eastern South America.

Habitat: Found in freshwater, brackish, and marine waters such as canals, rivers, estuaries, and bays. 

Description: A large, round aquatic mammal with gray or light brown skin that is often covered in algae and barnacles.  Has small eyes, stiff vibrissae around the mouth, and a rounded tail. 

Size: Adults can reach 13 feet in length and weigh up to 3,500 lbs. At birth, calves are about three feet in length and weigh about 60 lbs.

Food: Vegetarian; eats sea grasses, marsh grasses, marine algae, water hyacinth, and hydrilla.

Breeding: Manatees mate and give birth year round.  Females have one calf at a time that often stays with its mother for one or two years after birth.

Predators: Adults have no natural predators but often collide with the hulls and propellers of boats.

Conservation Status: Listed as Endangered both in Georgia and Federally. Classified as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Interesting Facts: Manatees are not territorial and may be found alone or in small groups.  They communicate with chirps and clicks and reach sexual maturity between three and five years of age.  Manatees have a slow metabolic rate and must consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation every day.  These mammals can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes while resting. 

On the Coast: Manatees cannot tolerate waters below 68˚F and therefore are only present along the Georgia coast during the summer.  They migrate to central and south Florida during the winter to find natural and industrial warm waters.

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