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IUCN threat status:

Vulnerable (VU)

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Description

West Indian manatees are big, slow-moving, gentle vegetarians. They live in warm, shallow water in coastal rivers, estuaries, and lagoons. In winter, large groups of manatees sometimes congregate where warm water is being discharged from factories. Manatees feed on underwater vegetation, including algae, and sometimes graze on plants growing on shore that hang within their reach, but they never haul themselves out of the water. When they are active, they surface every few minutes to breathe, but when they are resting they can stay submerged for almost half an hour. Females produce a calf (occasionally twins) every two or three years. The calf stays very close to its mother until it is weaned, which can be as long as two years. Mother and calf communicate with squeaks and grunts.

Adaptation: "Like the maneuverable head end of upright vacuum cleaners, the ""bent"" shape of the snout and mandible of this Manatee, Trichechus manatus, is probably an adaptation to position the mouth in a way that makes lip-feeding efficient while the body behind it is more or less vertical. These animals hover buoyantly above the sea grass in their typical foraging-feeding posture, with the head tilted down and tail up."

Links:
Mammal Species of the World
Click here for The American Society of Mammalogists species account
Visit ARKive for more images of the West Indian manatee  More images, video and sound

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© Smithsonian Institution

Source: Smithsonian's North American Mammals

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