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IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Description

Possibly mistaken for mermaids by Christopher Columbus on a voyage to America, the West Indian manatee is a large, rotund, aquatic mammal. The tough skin is grey-brown with sparse hairs covering the body and many bristles on the muzzle (5). The front limbs are short flippers and the body tapers to a flat, paddle-shaped tail that distinguishes this species from the related dugong (Dugong dugon), which posses a fluke-like tail (6). Two subspecies of the West Indian manatee exist; the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is usually larger in size than the Antillean manatee (T. m. manatus) (7). A unique feature (amongst mammals) of the manatee is the constant replacement of molar teeth; new teeth enter at the back of the jaw and replace old and worn teeth at the front (5). Recent evidence suggests that manatees may possess a unique sixth sense that enables them to detect pressure changes through sensory hairs (8).

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Source: ARKive

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