The Florida manatee, Florida’s state marine mammal, is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin on which there is often a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer or sometimes crawl through shallow water. They also have powerful flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear quite well.
© Brian Skerry / National Geographic Stock
Did You Know?
Manatees only have molars, which are used to grind food. As they wear down and fall out, they are replaced with new teeth.
Manatees are herbivores; they eat marine and freshwater plants.
Manatees take up residence primarily in Florida’s coastal waters during winter. Some individuals migrate as far north as the Carolinas or as far west as Louisiana in summer. Manatees have swum as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts in recent years!
Manatees can be found in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Rarely do individuals venture into waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
Did You Know?
Manatees only breathe through their nostrils, since while they are underwater their mouths are occupied with eating! A manatee's lungs are 2/3 the length of its body.
Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They normally rest and feed often. Manatees communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.
Mating Season: No specific period.
Gestation: About 1 year.
Number of offspring: 1 calf.
Calves are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measuring about 3-4 feet. They nurse underwater.