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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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  • Kingdom- Animalia
  • Phylum- Chordata
  • Class- Mammalia
  • Order- Sirenia
    • Includes 5 species
1 west african manatee
1. West African Manatee
  • Range is the ‘crook’ of Africa’s west coast
    • Senegal & Angola mostly
  • Small population
  • Not well studied
2 amazonian manatee
2. Amazonian manatee
  • Only manatee that is a river-dweller
    • Fresh water only
  • Smallest of the 5 species
  • Not well studied
3 dugong
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
4 west indian manatee
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
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



evolutionary history
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
  • Favorite food is water hyacinth
  • Invasive species that chokes waterways in FL
  • A few manatees can clear out a river in a few hours
social manatees
Congregate in groups for long periods

Been known to nuzzle people & investigate

Only swims 15 mph maximum

Social Manatees
why are they endangered
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
causes of their decline
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
causes of their decline22
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
manatees power plants
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

Manatees in Florida

Inland locations are aquariums or research facilities.

rescue rehab research education
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

captive breeding
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
crystal river national wildlife refuge
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
current problems
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
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