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History and Evolution: 

History and Evolution After the global climate cooled during the Oligocene(34-24 million years ago) the seagrass beds retreated. The manatees (family Trichechidae) appeared during the Miocene(24-5 million years ago). The manatee as we know today throughout time has evolved from a land mammal related to the elephant.

History and Evolution: 

History and Evolution The manatee is part of the order Sirenia. Sirenians descended from terrestrial mammals that once browsed the shallow grassy swamps of the Paleocene, some 60 million years ago. These herbivores gradually became more aquatic, yet their closest modern relative remains a land mammal, the elephant. The current theories suggest that during the Eocene(55-34 million years ago) a sea cow (ancestor to the manatee) was found in the west Atlantic and the Caribbean.

Different Species: 

Different Species The manatee is part of the order sirenia. There are 4 species in the order sirenia. Dugong West Indian Manatee West African Manatee Amazonian Manatee

West Indian Manatee: 

West Indian Manatee The West Indian Manatee has two subspecies The Florida Manatee Occurs in the southeast United States The Antillean Manatee Occurs in the Greater Antilles and along the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic coast of central and South America.

Amazonian Manatee: 

Amazonian Manatee This is the smallest of the manatees. It occurs only in fresh water Its distribution is limited to the rivers, lakes, and tributaries of the Amazon River. This specie of manatee is distinctive due to its smooth skin, white or pinkish ventral markings, and the lack of nails on the flippers.

West African Manatee: 

West African Manatee The West African Manatee is found in West Africa Senegal to Angola Referred to as “mami-wata,” They are the basis for the mermaid myths involving manatees.


Dugong The dugong is very similar to the manatee. The main difference is their preference of habitat They are the only sirenian found in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The Dugong has a fluked tail like dolphins and tusks like their distant relative the elephant.

Myths about Manatees: 

Myths about Manatees There is a well known myth about manatees and mermaids. The sailors mistook the manatee for being a mermaid. Christopher Columbus was the first person to record a sighting of a manatee in the new world. Part of the legend remains in their name, sirenia, which came from the Greek mythology of sirens who sang songs to lure ships into the rocky shores.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Why should we learn and understand some important aspects of manatee biology?

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Understanding manatee biology and biological needs can bridge the gap between humans and manatees by creating knowledge of the biology and ecosystem interaction that is crucial for manatee conservation and protection.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Skeletal and Muscle Structure Allows us to understand locomotion capabilities. Movement by upswing and downswing of tail Forelimb used for precise maneuvering Idling Speed 2-3 km/h Cruising Speed 3-7 km/h

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology How does understanding this help conservation and/or protection of the manatee? Education to Boaters By understanding the locomotion and biological aspects of the manatee we can understand better why we must avoid them, instead of them avoiding us.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Brain Relatively Small Brain Brain wt. 360g. = body wt. 756 tonnes Human brain wt. 1500g. = body wt. 64 tonnes However, can process information well such as food choices.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Eyesight Poor visibility in natural environment Difficulty seeing close objects Color-vision

Manatee Biology : 

Manatee Biology How does understanding this help in conservation and/or protection of the manatee? Education for boaters We must avoid them because of poor eyesight and brain capabilities. Can process information, but can’t teach wild animals to avoid boats.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Digestive System and Habits Herbivores Lengthy digestive tract

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Why is understanding this important? We can see what type of plants are consumed and understand the effects of losing manatee food consumption on the ecosystem. Ex. Extinct Stellar’s Sea Cow and the sea otter used kelp forests for food. Must allow manatees to regenerate their populations so we can see the effects of their eating habits on the ecosystem.

Manatee Biology: 

Manatee Biology Conclusion By understanding the biology and biological aspects of a manatee we can enhance our understanding of the need for conservation and protection of the manatee.


Socialization Manatees are semi-social animals

Social behavior:: 

Social behavior: Best described as a semi-social animal, with the only personal relationship existing between a mother and her calf. Groups of manatees gather and separate randomly with no regards to sex, gender or age. Main gathering time is when their regular habitat becomes too cold and they migrate to winter warm-water refuges. Manatees participate in playful “games” with one another, ranging from bodysurfing to follow-the-leader. While bodysurfing, manatees ride the strong currents below flood dams when the gates are slightly open. They usually use their chirps and squeaks to vocalize while playing. During follow-the-leader, two or more manatees follow the one in front of them n a single file line. Each manatee mimics what the one in front of them is doing (breathing, diving, turning).


Communication: Manatees make noises such as chirping or squeaking, which are vocalized during playful times, when they are scared and when they are sexually aroused. These noises are not like that of the whales. They aren’t designed to travel long distances. The manatee’s voice is for communication between manatees that are close in distance. Many manatees relationship with their mother lasts a lifetime – even after they have had a calf of their own they will remain in close companionship with them. Manatees have at least 40 noticeably different sounds they can make. Many studies are being done to understand the manatee’s hearing and why they do not frequently know when a boat is approaching that could harm them.

Manatee Hearing Chart:: 

Manatee Hearing Chart:

Hearing Test Video:: 

Hearing Test Video:

Habitat Distribution : 

Habitat Distribution Light Blue represents the Florida manatee Green represents the Amazonian manatee Maroon represents the Antillean manatee Purple represents the West African manatee


Diet Diet consists of over 60 kinds of plants consume 4% to 9% of body weight daily (approx. 32-108 lbs.) usually found eating at bottom of water column or at the surface maneuver food into their mouths with their large lips and their flippers drink only freshwater

The Florida Manatee: 

The Florida Manatee Habitat and Distribution Found mostly in coastal waters near Florida, but have been spotted as far north as Virginia and as far west as Mississippi. Very abundant in the Florida Keys. Move easily between salt and fresh water. Migration when the temp drops below 20°C (68°C). to natural warm water springs, power plant outfalls, etc.

The Amazonian Manatee: 

The Amazonian Manatee Habitat and Distribution Restricted to fresh water Found most commonly in floodplain lakes and channels Migration Migrates downstream or to lakes during the dry season

Manatees: An Endangered Species: 

Manatees: An Endangered Species


Why? Low Population Levels High Number of Threats


Threats Watercraft Collisions Man-Made Water Management Systems Fishing Line Entanglements All Human Related

Propeller Scars from Boats:: 

Propeller Scars from Boats:

What Is Being Done?: 

What Is Being Done? Prop Guards Placed on Boats Warning Signs and Water Laws for Boaters:


Protection The Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 The Endangered Species Act of 1973


Organizations: Save The Manatee Club Wonderful World of the Manatee

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