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Unveiling the Gentle Giants: A Guide to Manatees

screen shot 2023 09 10 at 6.22.58 pm

Unveiling the Gentle Giants: A Guide to Manatees


Manatees, scientifically known as Trichechus, are large aquatic mammals known for their gentle nature and distinct, paddle-like tails.

These herbivores primarily inhabit warm coastal waters and freshwater springs, making them a unique and cherished species. 

Ever wanted to learn more about the beautiful creatures that live in our waters? From their elegant swimming habits to their championship breath-holding abilities, manatees are one of nature’s gentle giants.

But did you know that these majestic creatures are also endangered? Read on to discover everything you need to know about manatees. You’ll be able to identify them and get a closer look at their majestic habitat.

Manatees Are Gentle Giants

Native to Florida’s coastal waters, manatees are peaceful and adorable creatures. Though manatees are large and intimidating, they are surprisingly adorable up close.


Typically found in estuaries and coastal waters, manatees are small mammals that can grow up to 10 feet long and weigh 1,200 pounds. Despite their impressive size, manatees face many threats, including habitat loss and increasing watercraft traffic.

The species has been wiped out from the Earth several times, with the greatest threat being human activity. Humans do a lot of damage to manatees, many of whom are unaware they are doing it.

A recent drone video of manatees on Bradenton Beach, Fla., captured the attention of beachgoers who thought the manatees were stranded.

Nevertheless, the footage revealed the animals’ friendly and curious nature, making the incident all the more exciting. A distant relative of elephants, manatees can swim up to 15 miles per hour in short bursts and swim at about 3 mph.

Their powerful tails allow them to swim slowly but efficiently. Their strong tails allow them to remain submerged for up to 20 minutes and up to five hours on the move. They are also extremely slow, and they can go nearly without air – a good thing for humans!

They’re Graceful Swimmers

You’ve probably heard of the manatee. This aquatic mammal, sometimes called sea cows, is an exceptionally graceful swimmer.


It moves at a moderate pace of 5 miles per hour but can reach speeds of 15 miles per hour in bursts. It uses its powerful tail to propel itself through the water. Manatees are also at risk of injury from outboard motors, so you should stay away from them if you’re in a boat.

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Manatees are aquatic mammals that are closely related to elephants. They feed on plants that grow on sea floors and inhabit rivers and shallow nearshore waters.

These gentle giants are also very good parents, teaching their young to be self-reliant and life-saving. When their babies start drowning, good mothers will race to the surface to rescue them.

They also have the ability to swim at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour, which is comparable to human walking speed. Though manatees are not the fastest swimmers, they can travel up to 15 miles per hour!

They usually swim in pairs or small groups of up to six. They rarely leave the water, and surface only to breathe. Manatees are often seen resting near the water’s surface and are easy to spot from above.

These aquatic mammals can stay submerged for up to 15 minutes without ever coming up for air, but they usually surface every three or four minutes to rehydrate themselves and breathe.

They’re Champion Breath-Holders

Manatees are champion breath-holders. Despite being slow-moving, the manatees have a high lung capacity, allowing them to hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.

Scientists have attempted to motivate them to surface faster to catch fish, but they had no luck. Manatees are the world’s champion breath-holders! Read on to find out how these gentle giants can hold their breath underwater for so long!

Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes, much longer than most people. But even manatees have their limits. They can only stay underwater for a few minutes, and they prefer to come up for air every three to four minutes.

They can hold their breath for this long because they don’t have predators underwater. Crocodiles, sharks, and alligators can kill them if they’re underwater, so manatees prefer shallow water.

The air they breathe out is known as manatee gas, and it is made up of thousands of small, tactile hairs. The manatee’s lungs regulate its buoyancy by compressing their lung volumes, thereby making the animal’s body denser.

Manatees are also known to perform ‘tail stands’ in shallow water in order to breathe and regulate buoyancy. But this practice is not for everyone.

They’re Endangered

Despite a recent increase in their numbers, manatees are still considered endangered. Despite being protected by law, manatees are under threat from human activity.

Collisions with watercraft and alarming temperature changes are among the main threats. All three species are under the protection of the Endangered Species Act.

To protect manatees, a lot of research needs to be done. And as a part of that research, a new documentary titled Manatees Under Threat has just been released.

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The US Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has made its decision based on incomplete data. It ignored significant die-offs in 2010 and 2013 and failed to acknowledge climate change as a threat to the manatees.

Nevertheless, the commission did acknowledge the potential for a reduction in the manatee population due to climate change, which would impact their habitat and lead to harmful algae blooms.

As a result, manatees are still under threat, and the agency should revisit the proposal at its meeting on Dec. 5. The range of manatees has been reduced to just one percent of their original range.

This makes manatees particularly vulnerable to extinction throughout their range. Their reproductive rate is low, with a gestation period of about a year.

Because manatees are not able to produce many offspring, fewer than two thousand are born each year. Their mothers are deeply bonded with their calves, so even if they get into a fight, they are unlikely to be violent.

They’re Cute

You may have heard of manatees as adorable sea creatures, but did you know they are endangered?

You probably wouldn’t want to get too close to these adorable creatures, especially considering they can end up on dinner tables in Cuba! One WUSF reporter recently tagged along with a conservationist from the Sea to Shore Alliance, a Sarasota-based organization.

On his weekly show, “Florida Matters,” Steve Newborn reports on the state’s wildlife problems. If you are ever in Florida, you’ll find these sea cows in the rivers and coastal areas.

You may even get to meet a calf or two. Just be sure not to get too close, as manatees don’t like being touched. Remember “look, but don’t touch,” and don’t separate a calf from its mother.

Also, keep in mind that you may see some research equipment attached to the manatee.

Researchers use this equipment to track the animal, as well as for health reasons. This equipment is not harmful to the manatee, and you should never attempt to remove it.

The mother of manatees cares for her young for two years after birth. A manatee calf will be dependent on its mother for food and protection. As manatees do not have natural predators, they lack an aggressive mechanism or elaborate escape response.

They are affectionate toward humans and respond warmly to them. They prefer a slow speed of three to five miles per hour and enjoy the company of other sea creatures and people.

They’re A Mermaid Legend

Manatees have long been associated with the myths of mermaids, but is there any truth to them? According to some sources, manatees are not mermaids.

These aquatic mammals are related to sea cows. Although their name may make people think of mermaids, the truth is that manatees are part of a thriving ecosystem, and are not mermaids at all.

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Manatees are slow-moving creatures that live near the shore. Their long, curved fins are used to swim and frolic in the water. These creatures are curious and are rarely attacked by other marine mammals.

They are the closest living cousins of mermaids and are known for their nocturnal habits. Their five-digit flippers resemble human forelimbs when submerged.

Manatees, dugongs, and other sea mammals are often misidentified as mermaids and sirens. These sea mammals are much larger than mermaids, and their shadows cast beneath the water could easily fool sailors.

Manatees can pass for humanoids when observed from a distance but are not considered mermaids. So, what is the truth behind the legend?

Although there is no truth to the manatee mermaid story, there may be some truth in the myth. Manatees are actually similar to mermaids in their behavior and habitat.

Manatees can travel at speeds of between 15-20 mph. However, they are not immune to collisions with boats. Thus, it is important to take care of our oceans and the world.


Manatees, often referred to as sea cows, are fascinating creatures that play a vital role in maintaining the health of their aquatic habitats.

As vulnerable species, they rely on conservation efforts and public awareness to ensure their continued survival and well-being.

Questions People Also Ask: (FAQs)



What do manatees look like?

Manatees have robust, streamlined bodies covered in wrinkled, grayish-brown skin. They possess flippers resembling hands that they use for feeding and maneuvering in the water.


Where can manatees be found in the wild?

Manatees are commonly found in coastal areas of the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Caribbean Sea. They are also known to inhabit freshwater springs and rivers in Florida, West Africa, and Central and South America.


What do manatees eat, and how do they feed?

Manatees are herbivores that primarily feed on aquatic plants like seagrasses and freshwater vegetation. They use their flexible upper lips to grasp and consume their food, which is abundant in the shallow waters they inhabit.


Are manatees endangered species?

Yes, manatees are classified as vulnerable or endangered in many regions due to threats such as habitat loss, boat strikes, and pollution. Conservation efforts and protective measures are in place to help preserve their populations.


How do humans interact with manatees?

Humans can observe manatees in the wild through responsible eco-tourism activities like guided boat tours and snorkeling excursions. However, it is crucial to follow guidelines that prioritize the safety and well-being of these gentle creatures.

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