Physical Features

The manatee is a marine mammal that lives all around the world. Because it is a mammal, it gives birth to live young, is warm blooded, and breathes air. They have two pectoral fins and a paddle shaped tail. Their fins are for pulling grass and weeds near the mouth. They use their tail for swimming. Also, their fins are used for steering in the water and crawling across the bottom.
Its head and face are wrinkled. The snout has a few thick, stiff whiskers on it. The manatee is a very large animal. Adults have been known to exceed lengths of thirteen feet and weights of 3,500 pounds, but this is way over the average. They actually average around ten feet in length and weigh around 800-1,200 pounds. Manatees have small eyes and have a membrane to protect them. They can see pretty well and can distinguish colors, patterns, and different sized objects. They can hear somewhat well, considering they lack external ear lobes. Their ears are located several centimeters behind the eyes.
There is a old sailors’ myth about manatees being mermaids. That is where the order sirenia comes from. Siren means mermaid. This seems funny because there is no way that a manatee could have any resemblance to a mermaid.
Behavior
Manatees are water mammals, they live in serene, calm areas. They are gentle creatures that spend their day mostly playing, eating, and resting. They are docile and tame, and one will not even fight to save its’ own life. They are agile, because of their flippers. The manatees do not have any natural enemies except for humans and alligators. They are not territorial because they do not require protection from a herd. Manatees are semi-social, and somewhat solitary animals.
The basic social unit of manatees is between the mother and her calf. During the day, a manatee does many things with other manatees. Some of these activities are feeding, resting, nuzzling, body surfing, and games such as follow-the-leader. It sometimes roams waterways alone, or even with a group of manatees. When defending a calf, the mother will not fight. It will go between the calf and the intruder, even going as far as giving up her life for the calf. In defense, a manatee will flee rather than fight.
Manatee Calves
When the manatee mates, it does not form a permanent bond. Breeding starts when a group of males follows a single female around. Around this time, each male breeds at random. Even though births happen all the time, the majority of them happen in spring. Manatees usually have a single offspring, but twins are possible. The time period between births range from three to five years. The gestation period is thirteen months. Because of this slow birth rate, the manatees cannot get their numbers high.
When a calf is born, it needs to surface for air, and is sometimes helped by its mother. The baby can be born either head or tail first. The calf nurses for a long period of time and then starts to eat underwater plants. The calf can nurse up to two years. The mother has a great bond with her baby, constantly being close. Vocal conversations are very common between mother and baby.
Phylogenic Order and Related Species
Manatees are marine mammals, which means they live in water. Under the phylum category, a manatee is characterized as a chordata, which means it has a backbone. They are in the order sirenia, which comes from the word "Siren" meaning mermaid. They are in the family trichechidae and the genus trichechus. The Florida manatee is the species manatus and subspecies latirstris.
The Florida manatee is not the only manatee in the world. There are many other species of manatee. These species include the Amazonian manatee, the West African manatee, the West Indian manatee, and the Antillian manatee. The dugong, a relative of the manatee, lives along the coast of southern Asia to the northern half of Australia. A descendant to the manatee is the elephant, because they both have three toes.
Problems and Protection of manatees
The manatee is one of the many endangered species of the world. There are many reasons why the manatee’s numbers are decreasing. Most of the manatees in Florida’s waters have propeller scars. Another cause