If you have ever visited the Florida Keys, you have certainly heard of the famed Florida manatees… or maybe you have been lucky enough to see one in person! The manatees that roam the Florida Keys are West Indian Manatees, which is one of the three main species of manatees. Here are 15 fun facts about manatees:
- Although manatees live in the water, they are mammals.
- The average adult manatee weighs between 800 – 1200 pounds.
- Like most large mammals, they have a low reproductive rate and only have babies every 2 – 5 years. (Twins are possible, but very rare!)
- Manatees have exceptional eyesight and hearing.
- They are solitary creatures, except during mating season or when females are caring for their young.
- Baby manatees are called calves. At birth they are around 70 pounds, and they have the ability to see, hear and swim as soon as they are born.
- Their nickname is “seacows”. Because like land cows, manatees spend most of their time grazing on grass… sea grass, that is.
- Manatees eat approximately 10 – 15% of their body weight each day.
- With no real natural predators in the wild, most non-natural manatee deaths occur as a result of human interference by way of boat propeller blades, eating fishing gear, entanglement in trap lines, etc.
- Manatees are warm water creatures that are unable to survive in water below 60 degrees. A cold spell in 2010 took the lives of many Florida manatees.
- Manatees look like they are insulated with fat, but their body is mostly made up of stomach and intestines.
- Although they surface every 3 – 5 minutes to breathe, manatees are able to hold their breath for 20 minutes.
- Manatees are closely related to elephants. They evolved from the same land mammals as elephants.
- They are known for their gentle demeanor.
- Manatees have been the source of a variety of claims of mermaid sightings in the Florida Keys.
Manatees are an endangered species. There are many rules and laws regarding interactions with manatees. Before you feed or touch a manatee, or enter their habitat, be aware of the laws in place to protect this species. Manatees are a true treasure of the Florida Keys and it takes our entire community to protect them and ensure their safety. Visit the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to learn more about manatee protection and the dos and don’ts of legally and safely viewing manatees.
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