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Manatees The Forgotten Mermaid. Janae Barrett. Figure 9.1. Figure 9.13. Classification:. Kingdom- Animalia Phylum- Chordata Class- Mammalia Order- Sirenia Includes 5 species. 1. West African Manatee. Range is the ‘crook’ of Africa’s west coast Senegal & Angola mostly

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Manatees the forgotten mermaid l.jpg

ManateesThe Forgotten Mermaid

Janae Barrett

Classification l.jpg

  • Kingdom- Animalia

  • Phylum- Chordata

  • Class- Mammalia

  • Order- Sirenia

    • Includes 5 species

1 west african manatee l.jpg
1. West African Manatee

  • Range is the ‘crook’ of Africa’s west coast

    • Senegal & Angola mostly

  • Small population

  • Not well studied

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2. Amazonian manatee

  • Only manatee that is a river-dweller

    • Fresh water only

  • Smallest of the 5 species

  • Not well studied

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3. Dugong

  • Indian Ocean and far Western Pacific in tropical environments

  • All over N. Australia, Indo-Chinese, & Indian waters

    • Hunted by aboriginal people of Australia

  • Also found in Red Sea & East African coast

  • Whale-like tail, instead of paddle-shaped

  • Fastest of the 5 species

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4. West Indian Manatee

  • 2 subspecies

    • Antillean manatee

      • Can range down to Brazilian coast from Caribbean islands in the North

    • Florida manatee

      • Primary range consists of Florida’s south coast

      • Have been found from Mississippi to Virginia

      • Both Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico sides

  • 2 groups are isolated geographically

Major characteristics l.jpg

Breast-feed young

Mammary glands at corner of each flipper

Nurse 1 offspring at a time for 1-2 years

Gestation period of about 1 year

Can hold breath for 20 min because of huge lungs on their dorsal side = can breathe easily on land too

Front flippers are strong so they can drag themselves across shallow areas when water level is low

70 + year lifespan

Breathe air with lungs

Bear live young

Possess hair

Tough, thick skin

Whiskers, called vibrissae, which serve as a sensory nerve function.

Head is rounded

Have a small mouth, & eyelids

Very dense bones = heavy underwater to help them sink to feed

Major Characteristics

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Evolutionary History

  • Share a common ancestor with elephants, aardvark, & hyrax (large rodent)

    • link made by common dental structure

    • DNA evidence

  • No collarbone

  • Has vestigial pelvis from its land-dwelling ancestor

  • Toenails & hooves rather than claws

    • they have these on the end of flippers

  • Males have small elephant- like tusks

  • Snout is similar to elephant trunk & can articulate

  • Teeth regenerate as they wear them down

Feeding l.jpg

  • Favorite food is water hyacinth

  • Invasive species that chokes waterways in FL

  • A few manatees can clear out a river in a few hours

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Congregate in groups for long periods

Been known to nuzzle people & investigate

Only swims 15 mph maximum

Social Manatees

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Why are they endangered?

  • In 35 million years of evolutionary history they haven’t evolved much

  • They have no predators

    • Alligators are outweighed

    • Sharks rarely come that close into shore & waterways to attack them

      Current Causes of Decline

  • 1. human impact: boats, habitat loss, etc.

  • 2. thermal & chemical pollution

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Causes of their Decline

1. Hit by boaters, & other harassment by humans

  • Slow swimmers

  • Surface-dwellers as they feed on macroalgae & freshwater plants

  • Origin of nickname “sea cow”

  • Motor noise likely falls into a frequency range they cannot hear

  • Ears are buried inside the head, therefore they have difficulty detecting direction of a boat

  • Chemical pollution of waters affects their immune system

  • Loss of habitat due to human development

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Causes of their Decline

  • 2. Thermal & Chemical Pollution

    • Tropical species without a lot of blubber

    • Chemical pollution of waters affects their immune system

    • Below 68°F water temp = hypothermia

    • Susceptible to sun burn too

    • Sometimes will drape head in seaweed or plants to cover up

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Manatees & Power Plants

  • Many power plants located on waterways in FL

  • Use water to cool turbines, etc.

  • Water is then pumped out (warmer) & manatees congregate in these areas to keep warm

  • These areas may or may not have decent food supply for them

  • Can get trapped in these warm areas with no food

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Manatees in Florida

Inland locations are aquariums or research facilities.

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Rescue, Rehab, Research, & Education

Sea World, Orlando- has special pool with lift at bottom to raise them out of water enough to allow for procedures, etc.

Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa- Vet. Dept has saved 80 indiv. since 1991- designed a neoprene suit to keep them warm while they recover

Save the Manatee Club (assoc. with Audubon Society)- public education, Manatee Awareness Program for boaters, etc.

Surveys ID animals by cuts & injuries & other skin markings- almost ALL adults have some scarring

-skeg on boat motors does the damage not the propeller

Radio-tagging by wrapping around the tail rise

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Captive Breeding?

  • It has been tried

  • Unsuccessful in terms of support because it is a long-term process

  • Don’t want calves born in captivity

  • Once they are adults, almost 2 year later, they wouldn’t be able to cope in wild

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Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge

  • Largest population of manatees

  • Major wintering spot

  • Has become a tourist attraction

  • Hot springs keep NWR waters warm

  • Public allowed to snorkel & SCUBA with manatees

  • Even tourist areas have NO PEOPLE zones & manatees seem to know where they are

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Current Problems

  • FL Senate & H. of Rep. has passed 2 bills in April 2004 that infringe on Nat’l Endangered Species Act & Marine Mammal Protection Act

    • Pushed by boaters/ boating lobby in FL

    • Want to change laws locally based on “local manatee population”

    • “Local pop.” doesn’t exist because they migrate!

The tragedy of stellar s sea cow l.jpg
The Tragedy of Stellar’s Sea Cow

  • Largest

    • 25 feet long, 8,000-22,000 lbs

  • Extinct

  • Only species in cold climate

  • Named for Georg Wilhelm Stellar

    • Shipwrecked in Bering Sea in 1741

    • Rescued, shared this discovery

    • 27 years later, hunted to extinction