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Types of Animals
Three different manatee species (family Trichechidae) swim in the temperate and sub-tropical fresh salt waters of the Atlantic Ocean:
- The South American Manatee or Amazonian Manatee (trichechus inunguis) inhabits most areas of the Amazon river and its tributaries.
- The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) inhabits the warm coastal waters of Florida, the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean along the coast of eastern South America.
- The West African Manatee (Trichechus senegalensis) inhabits the tropical and subtropical coastal waters of West Africa.
The Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris), a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee, can be found along both coasts of the Florida Peninsula in both fresh water and salt water.
On average, a manatee can grow over ten feet long and weight about one thousand pounds. That means the manatee, an herbivore, must invest most of its time consuming large amounts of local grass and plant. Experts estimate that a manatee can eat one hundred pounds of feed each day.
The top picture shows the general shape of the manatee body. It is long and streamlined, with a flat tail to help propel it through shallow waters.
In the wild, people often see the long manatee body when it swims near the water's surface. Because the manatee is a marine mammal that bears live young, they need to regularly surface and breath fresh water. The bottom picture shows another common manatee scene, a manatee's nose peaking above the water's surface as it breathes.
The manatee's preference for the warm coastal and river waters around Florida means they compete with Florida's boaters for water space. The competition often turns deadly because the manatee's soft body usually can not stand up to contact with a boat's propellers.
Florida wildlife experts estimate that over one-quarter of manatee deaths are caused by boating accidents, and they constantly monitor manatee migrations in order to provide boaters with warnings of their presence.
The IUCN lists all three manatee species as vulnerable. The Florida Manatee is listed as endangered under the terms of the Endangered Species Act.
Long term population trends of the Florida Manatee show a slight increase. According to The Manatee Synoptic Surveys conducted annually by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) in the winter of 2001, 3,300 manatees were spotted. Ten years later, in the winter of 2010, 5,076 manatees were spotted.
However, those trends can easily change because of both man made and nature causes such as long cold snaps and Red Tide outbreaks. A 2001 cold snap along the Florida Coast, for example, was estimated to have killed three hundred manatees.
© 2010 Patricia A. Michaels.