Manatees have a special place in every Floridian’s heart, but do we really know one of our favorite sea creatures as well as we think we do? Here’s some awesome manatee facts to impress your friends this Manatee Appreciation Day.
- There are three known species of manatees: The West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus), the West African manatee (Trichechus senegalensis), and the Amazonian manatee (Trichechus inunguis). We know least about Amazonian manatees due to their secretive nature and the murky water in the Amazon Basin.
- Manatees are mammals and thus need to breath air to survive. They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes, but typically manatees will go to the water’s surface for air every three to five minutes
- Manatees evolved from a land mammal over 50 million years ago. This land mammal serves as a common ancestor with the elephant – the closest living relative to the manatee.
- Manatees and elephants may seem like they have only their large size in common. In fact, both animals continuously place their teeth over the course of their lives. Older teeth at the front of the manatee’s mouth will fall out and new teeth group in at the back to replace them.
- Manatees owe their large size due to their enormous stomach and intestines, making them appear as though they have much more body fat than they really do.
- Manatees are slow moving creatures. While they can swim up to 20 miles an hour, they usually travel no more than a couple miles per hour.
- Because manatees are such leisurely swimmers, they have trouble getting out of the way of passing boats in time. Though manatees have no natural predator, humans are responsible for about half of all West Indian manatee deaths due to boating collisions.
- Because all three species of manatees are endangered, the Manatee Sanctuary Act states that 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. Fines can reach a maximum of $500 in addition to jail time up to 60 days.
- But you know what’s not outlawed? Viewing these amazing creatures in action! Here are several locations throughout Florida where you can go see manatees in person.