The 29th of March marks Manatee Appreciation Day, and we’re here to share a little love for these adorable ocean-dwellers. Manatee Appreciation Day exists to raise awareness for these gentle giants, as they are unfortunately subject to such threats as hunting (poachers seek their hides, oils and bones.) Hunting pressures have affected manatee numbers dramatically in the last century, which is why there are laws in place to protect some populations. That said, these unusual creatures are ultimately still at risk. They are often caught up in fishing nets, or even accidentally hit by motor boats.
In an attempt to bring manatees to the forefront of our considerations (particularly in high-risk areas such as Florida), Manatee Appreciation Day aims to give a little affection to these quirky creatures. Join us as we run through some of our favourite manatee facts!
Manatees Are Sometimes Referred To As 'Sea Cows'
Due to their large stature and lolling stature, this nickname really is quite fitting! Plus, just look at that adorable face...somewhat familiar, right?
And, Like Cows, They Have Mostly Herbivorous Diet
Manatees are serial grazers, devouring an abundance of water grasses, weeds and algae on a near-constant basis. On top of that, they can eat a tenth of their own weight in under 24 hours - and since manatees can weigh up to 1300lbs, that's a mighty lot of weight!
Despite Their Namesake, Manatees Are Not Even Nearly Related To Cows
In fact, this animal's closest relative is the elephant! Or, to make things a little stranger, another close relative is the hyrax. Just Google one of those and see if you can spot the similarities, because we certainly can't!
They're Bigger Than You Might Expect
In photos, something this cute may give you the illusion of being small and cuddly. But in reality, manatees are huge - not only do they weigh a lot (as described above), but their actual size is quite something. They are larger than a full-grown 6ft man, and much much heavier!
They Have An Average Lifespan Of Around 40 Years
That is, if life takes it natural course. Sadly, manatees are at risk due to such threats as hunting, fishing and even motorboat accidents.
Their Babies Are Seriously Amazing
Baby manatees are born under the water, with their mothers taking them to the surface to gasp at their first breath. However, only an hour after being born, these incredible infants can typically swim on their own!
Manatees Are Semi-Social
While they wouldn't be classed as solitary, these marine animals still enjoy a bit of alone-time. Typically though, they tend to hang out in pairs (females and their calves), occasionally spending time in small groups. That said, they do congregate for warmth in colder weather...and even gather around powerplant discharge pipes in their thousands! This is because the pipes expel heat, which the manatees then treat as a sauna.
And They're Graceful Swimmers
Manatees typically swim at around 5mph, remaining close to the water's surface. That said, if they really wanted to, they could swim at up to 15mph!
They're Also Great At Holding Their Breath
Okay, while that may not be the most technical way of putting it, manatees can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes at a time. However, when they swim, they do need to come up for air every four minutes!
Sailors Across Cultures Used To Believe That Manatees Were Mermaids!
Yes, it's true. And while the myth about mermaids has never totally been dispelled, there have been multiple instances across cultures where sailors have retold the tale of spotting these 'sirens' at sea. Interestingly, there is a traditional ceremony in Palau which revolves around such storytelling - tales of young women transforming into these gentle grazers are renowned, and wooden storyboard carvings illustrate the animals aiding fishermen at sea!
Unlike Most Mammals, Manatees Only Have Six Neck Vertebrae
Humans, giraffes, whales and rats all have seven neck vertebrae - but the poor manatee only has six. This means that they are unable to turn their heads to the side, resorting instead to flipping their whole body over to see behind them!
Are you celebrating Manatee Appreciation Day? Let us know if you have any interesting facts of your own!
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