- The West Indian Manatee belongs to the Mammalia class in the Trichechus genus, is the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal.
- They are known as sea cows based on diet and also have another name North American Manatee.
- The West Indian Manatee is divided into two subspecies based on close genetic and morphological studies. – the Florida Manatee and the Antillean or Caribbean Manatee.
- The subspecies names denote where to find them. The Florida Manatee is primarily found along the coasts of Florida. Caribbean Manatee is visible throughout the Caribbean.
- Trichechus manatus is the scientific name of the West Indian Manatee. They are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act in the 1970s. Over the decades, the government and non-profit organizations have invested a significant amount of time to protect these species from natural and human-induced threats.
- And on March 30, 2017, the US announced the federal reclassification of the West Indian Manatee from endangered to threatened as a substantial increase in the total population had been found.
- They are nick-named Sea Cows because they prefer seagrasses and other aquatic plants in their daily diet.
The Physical Features and Habitat
- The average West Indian Manatee weighs around 200-600 kg and is 2.7-3.5 m long. The females are larger than the male Manatee.
- They have fully chosen the aquatic life with algae and sea plants. They have a spatula-like paddle for propulsion and smooth movement in the water.
- The West Indian Manatee is linked to elephants. The studies connect that they are a distant relative of elephants showing some similarities.
- Manatees have no natural predators. And they do not exhibit predator avoidance behaviours which are an integral part of animal life. However, it doesn’t mean that Manatees are safe and away from external attacks.
- Sharks are considered the potential enemy of Manatees. In a broader sense of studies, they prefer not to enter into the brackish habitats of Manatees and attack them more often. The juvenile Manatees get threats from sharks.
- Manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour but they usually swim only about 3-5 miles per hour. And they live up to 60 years with active health and genetic qualities.
- The West Indian Manatee prefers a sustainable water life in shallow, slow-moving rivers, saltwater bays and coastal areas. They prefer brackish and freshwater systems where underwater vegetation like seagrass and eelgrass are available.
- They travel deep into the underwater when feeling threatened. For centuries, West Indian Manatees have been hunted by humans for their meat and bones that have commercial benefits.
- West Indian Manatee migrates to the warm conditions in the winter as the exposure to deep cold can be deadly for their survival.
- They can hold their breath between 15-20 minutes underwater. However, they come above the water level more often to get the fresh air.
Appearance, Diet and Current Range in the World
- Manatees are herbivores that depend on seagrasses for their entire life. They have a unique shape with paired flippers and a large spoon-shaped tail. They are typically greyish brown with seagrass stain in the upper parts of the body.
- Manatees go for submerged vegetation such as turtle and manatee grass. They eat floating and emergent plants as well and require fresh water for drinking.
- They are found in the south eastern US, eastern Mexico and many other parts of Florida. With the strict policy from the lawmakers, a safe change has been identified with the population of Manatees.
- The brain size is small for Manatees compared to its body size. They don’t have to plan complex hunting strategies to get the food as their life would go with the seagrass without effort.
- They produce next generation through internal fertilization like other mammals. The mother Manatee nurse them for around two years as long as the calf is matured with the external environment.
- Manatees play an important role in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. They symbolise gentleness, calm and non-violence because they are incredibly soft creatures. It is exciting to watch them playing around in the waves.
- West Indian Manatees are a major attraction with their unique appearance and behaviour. They choose to be an interesting object for nature lovers.