West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus)

Did you know?

That the sailors once thought manatees were mermaids, hence the scientific name of “Sirenia” to unify the zoological order manatees and dugongs. The word “Sirenia” comes from the word “siren”. “The Sirens” are legendary Greek sea beauties that lured sailors to the sea. It is thought that the ancient sightings of the Sirenia is a mythical half woman, half fish.

The West Indian Manatee is a large aquatic mammal, peeled spindle-shaped, with front legs modified into flippers, no hind limbs and the back of the body in the form of a horizontal vane. The length of adults ranges from 2.5 to 4.5 to 6 m, with a body weight of 300 to 500 kg. The West Indian Manatee has a wrinkled face, with whiskers on the snout. The fins are large, and limbs are flat.

The teeth of the manatee is very unusual: vestigial incisors and deciduous premolars are lost before adulthood. Normally, there are 6 molars that are present simultaneously. Manatees are found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, saltwater bays, canals and coastal areas.

Manatees are migratory species. They are diurnal and nocturnal, generally solitary, but sometimes form congregations favorite sites and during the mating season.

Manatees are completely herbivorous, browsing forage on aquatic vegetation. They can consume food up to 10-15% of their body weight per day. They may be submerged at the bottom or just below the surface, leading to breathe every three to five minutes on average. It is believed that the life expectancy of manatees can exceed 60 years. Having no natural enemies, they can afford to have a very slow reproductive rate. Females are sexually mature newborn to five years of age and males are mature at nine years of age. On average, a calf is born every two to five years and twins are rare. The gestation period is approximately one year. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so the baby can remain dependent on its mother during that time.

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