Florida Manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris)
Manatee Family (Trichechidae)
Florida Manatee, a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, is a large grayish to brownish aquatic mammal, reaching over 10 feet long and 1200 pounds. The head and face have wrinkles and the snout is squarish with many whiskers. The body is rounded. The skin is leathery. The forelimbs (flippers) are short and hindlimbs are absent. The tail is flattened and paddle-shaped. The female can start to reproduce around age 4 and has a calf every 2-5 years. Gestation is 12 to 14 months long and calves are born in the spring/early summer usually. The calf remains with its mother for up to 2 years. Life span can be greater than 60 years in the wild. Food consists mainly of various aquatic and semi-aquatic plants, many of which are abrasive. These plants wear down their molars frequently, so they continually replace their molars through a process called “marching molars” where new molars erupt in the rear of the jaw and slowly move forward as old ones in the front fall out. Found in estuaries, bays, slow-moving rivers, canals, and shallow coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Intolerant to cold, it is mostly found congregating in relatively warm-water areas like spring-fed rivers during October-April in Florida. It can migrate further north during warm season. Watercraft accidents is the biggest threat to its survival. It is a very gentle, non territorial, and slow-moving animal. Also known as sea cow. Listed as endangered federally and in AL, FL, GA, LA, MS, NC, SC, TX, and VA.
Copyright Brett Miley