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Manatee Trichechus manatus


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Manatee with nursing young
credit: Gaylen Rathburn

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Family: Trichechidae, Manatees view all from this family

Description Unmistakable slow-moving mammal with a blunt nose and a broad spatulate tail. Gray skin is often green from algae growing on back. Young nurse from a nipple under the flipper.

Dimensions 2.7-3.5m, 500-1650kg

Endangered Status The Manatee is on the U.S. Endangered Species List. It is classified as endangered throughout its range in the U.S. (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas). Hunting Manatees is now prohibited in the U.S., but for many years here the Manatee was hunted for its meat and oils, and it is still heavily hunted in Mexico and Central America. Population growth and unabated tourism have meant inadvertent damage to the Manatee. Its habitat has been altered by development, and too much human activity may drive Manatees away from areas of good browse. This large animal is slow and incautious, and many individuals are injured or killed by boat propellers (in some Manatee habitats, boating is now prohibited or speeds regulated). Other dangers include the release of warm water from power plants, which may lure the animal to areas of insufficient browse, and canal lock systems, which limit access to Manatee habitat.

Habitat Offshore waters, Beaches, shorelines & estuaries, Lakes, ponds, rivers & streams

Range Southeast, Florida, Texas

Discussion Endangered and vulnerable to collisions with speed boats. Manatees are the only mammalian marine herbivores, and feed on marine plants in shallow Florida waters. Become tame in protected areas, and accept human contact from divers. Occasionally wander as far north as the Chesapeake Bay in summer, and aggregate at warm water sources in winter. Favored habitats include large rivers, lagoons, and estuaries in coastal areas.