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Florida Manatee & Aquatic Center Animal Fact Sheet
WEST INDIAN MANATEE
Trichechus manus

Range:
From the southeastern USA through the Caribbean islands, eastern Central America, and the northern coast of South America. Florida is the northern end of the manatee's permanent range, although, in summer it may be seen as far north as Virginia and the Carolinas and as west as Texas.
This water dwelling mammal has a large, flat, rounded tail and paddle-like forelimbs with 3 to 4 nails at the tips. Hair is sparse over its torpedo-shaped body but is most prominent at the muzzle. A clear nicitating membrane covers and protects the manatee's eyes when the animal is submerged, and valve-like flaps of skin close over the nostrils to keep water out. While it generally surfaces to breathe once every 30 seconds when active and once every 4 minutes when resting, the manatee can remain submerged for as long as 24 minutes. It is quite agile in the water and can swim up to 15 mph. Manatees spend 6 to 8 hours each day feeding. Large grinding molars fall out and are replaced often throughout the animal's life. The manatee will rest on the bottom or suspended near the surface anywhere from 2 to 12 hours each day. It has no natural enemies and no mechanism for defense except to retreat from danger.

The endangered manatee faces many threats. Humans are responsible for about 30% of all manatee deaths. While boat collisions remain the leading single cause, manatees are also killed or injured when they meet with poachers, become entangled in or ingest fishing gear, get caught in flood gates and canal locks or lose habitats to development or pollution. Cold weather also claims many manatees, which are susceptible to pneumonia. Red tide has also been known to kill this animal.



Our friends at the Save the Manatee Club have created a FREE iPhone app that alerts you when your boat is entering a manatee zone! Download the app here.
Habitat: Inhabits fresh, marine and brackish water areas. Generally found in slower moving water between 3 and 20 feet deep. In the gulf, the manatee is almost always found near a river's mouth.
Diet: Feeds on aquatic vegetation but will ingest invertebrates living in the vegetation. In zoos, manatees are fed lettuce, cabbage, fruits and vegetables.
Status: Endangered (USFWS)
Vulnerable (IUCN)
Approximate Dimensions of Adult: Length: 12.7 feet (max), 9.8 feet (average)
Weight: 3,500 lbs. (max), 793 - 1,190 (average)
Lifespan: 50-60 years.
Reproduction & Offspring: Gestation: 12 to 13 months. During a 2-week estrus, females will mate with several males that form a mating herd with her. The manatee may calve anytime during the year and have been known to adopt abandoned calves. Newborns measure 4.0 to 4.5 feet in length and weigh about 66 pounds. The young nurse from teats beneath the female's flippers and may begin nibbling on vegetation within a few weeks after birth. They remain with their mother for up to 2 years. While manatees tend to congregate near warm water sources from November to March, the only stable social unit is the mother and calf.

 

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