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What do Manatees Eat?

Manatees are herbivores which means they eat only plants. Their diet consists of algae, seaweed, and other aquatic grasses.

  • Manatees have no "biting" teeth, only "grinding" teeth. A manatee's teeth (all molars) are constantly being replaced. New teeth come in at the back of the jaw and move forward horizontally about a centimeter a month. The front molars eventually fall out and are replaced by the teeth behind them.

  • Manatees don’t have pectoral or dorsal fins like dolphins. Instead, they have flippers which act as feet when they are grazing. They use their flippers to move them along the ocean floor.

Manatees do not have pectoral fins or dorsal fins, like dolphins. Instead, they have flippers which can act almost as legs when they are grazing along the ocean floor. They use these flippers to help move them along.

Manatee Educational Video with Pinky Plankton

Manatee Products

Manatee swimming with fish

Manatees typically dive down deep into the ocean if they feel threatened, but they do not move as fast as a boat. Many manatees you see will have scars on them from past boat encounters.

They have a thick layer of blubber, which is like fat, and insulates them so they can withstand cooler water temperatures.

Manatees have whiskers on their snout, and much like a cat, use their whiskers to detect vibrations and understand their surrounding environment.

They often migrate, in the winter, manatees are usually in around Florida. They sometimes will wander into rivers to help stay warm. In the summer, they can wander all over the coastal region from South Carolina and Georgia to other parts of Florida and the Caribbean.

Manatees are related to Dugongs, who are similar to manatees, except their fluke is shaped more like a dolphin or a whale. A manatee’s fluke is shaped like a paddle. 

Manatees (and Dugongs) are threatened and were once even endangered because they look like rocks in the ocean and they move very slowly, so often they get propellor injuries from boats.

Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas — particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species.

It is believed that one calf is born every two to five years, and twins are rare. The gestation period is about a year. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, during which time a calf remains dependent on its mother.

Manatees can swim up to 20 miles per hour in short bursts, but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour.

They may rest submerged at the bottom or just below the surface of the water, coming up to breathe on an average of every three to five minutes. When manatees are using a great deal of energy, they may surface to breathe as often as every 30 seconds. When resting, manatees have been known to stay submerged for up to 20 minutes.

Manatees breathe air out of their nostrils.

manatee face

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