Fun Manatee Facts for Kids

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  • Manatees are marine mammals.
  • Manatees are also known as sea cows.
  • Manatees are gentle, nonaggressive animals.
  • There are three species of manatees: West Indian Manatees (Trichechus Manatus), West African Manatees (Trichechus Senegalensis), Amazonian or South American Manatees (Trichechus Inunguis).
  • There are also two sub-species of manatees: Antillean Manatee (Trichechus Manatus Manatus) and Florida Manatee (Trichechus Manatus Latirostris).
  • Manatees mainly live in shallow (3ft-10ft) rivers, saltwater bays, canals and marshy costal areas.
  • Amazonian manatees live in freshwater.
  • Manatees cannot survive in water temperatures below 60 degrees.
  • They live in the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, Amazon Basin and West Africa.
  • Adult manatees can grow to be 9ft-13ft long.
  • On average manatees weigh between 800-1,300 pounds.  There have been manatees that weighed up to 3,000 pounds!
  • Manatees live to be between 40-60 years old.
  • Manatees are gray.
  • They have two paddle like flippers one on each side of their body and a big flat tail.
  • The West Indian and West African Manatees have 3-4 nails on each flipper.
  • The flippers help them steer while swimming. Manatees also use their flippers to help them eat.
  • They swim by moving their flat tail up and down.
  • While swimming sometimes manatees will do flips underwater, roll around and even swim upside down.
  • Since manatees are mammals they can not breathe underwater.
  • Manatees usually come up for air every 3-4 minutes but have been known to hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.
  • Manatees are slow swimmers.  They usually swim between 3-5 mph.  They can swim up to 20mph for very short distances.
  • Manatees spend most of their time eating, resting or traveling.
  • Manatees are herbivores meaning they only eat plants although at times manatees will eat small fish.
  • Manatees eat turtle grass, different types of algae, water hyacinth and other types of plants in the water.
  • Manatees have a large flexible lip that they use to help them eat.
  • Manatees eat around 100 pounds of food every day!
  • Manatees travel between 40-50 miles every day!
  • Manatees have two small eyes one on each side of their head.  Even though they have small eyes manatees have good eyesight.
  • Manatees cannot move their neck from side to side.  To see behind them they must turn their entire body!
  • Manatees also have good hearing.  They have no earlobes on the outside of their head but two inner lobes one on each side of their head.
  • Manatees have 24-32 molars located in the back of their mouths.  When their molars get worn down from eating new teeth (molars) grow in.
  • Mom manatees are pregnant for around 12-13 months.
  • Baby manatees are called calves.
  • Mom manatees only give birth to one manatee at a time.
  • When a calf is born the mother manatee brings him/her to the surface to breath.
  • Calves live with their mom for two years.
  • Manatees spend most of their time alone however, they have been known to interact with other manatees and even play with them. They like to bodysurf with other manatees.
  • Manatees will communicate with other manatees by making chirping, whistling and squeaking sounds.  They also make these sounds when they are scared.
  • Manatees have a good sense of smell.
  • In the United States manatees are classified as endangered. It is illegal to hunt them.
  • The only known predator to a manatee is a human.
  • Manatees often die from getting hit by boats.
  • Manatees also suffer from loss of habitat.
  • Like dolphins manatees are smart can be trained to learn ticks.