Introduction to Manatees
One of the most unusual of all the aquatic life out there is the manatee. You may also hear them called by the name of sea cows due to the resemblance they have to such land animals. They lead a very solitary life in the water unless they are mating or they are female with young to care for. They are plant eaters so they really don’t bother any other creatures in the water.
The manatee does have some natural enemies though to worry about when they are in the water. Most of the time it is the young and the weak that are the most vulnerable to such predators though. They include crocodiles, alligators and sharks. What predators they have to worry about depends on the location where they live.
Of course their biggest threat comes from humans. They continue to destroy the natural environment. They also pollute the waters and this has lead to a significant number of them being killed in the past couple of decades.
You will only find manatee’s where they water is at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit. They tend to like it much warmer than that. This is why so many of them migrate towards Florida in the winter time. They do communicate among each other at this time as well as time part in the mating rituals. Many tourists from around the world head to Florida during this time of year to observe the manatee’s as they migrate. In fact, there are some areas that allow the humans to swim with them.
The manatee spends most of its time either eating or sleeping. They spend their entire lives in the water. They are herbivores and enjoy a variety of many different plants that are found towards the bottom of the body of water they happen to be in. They tend to stay close to the coastal areas that are shallow to search for food unless it is scarce. Then they will move to deeper waters.
A great deal of what we know about the manatee comes from satellite tracking devices. They are in place by many different agencies including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership. Due to their dedication we are able to see patterns of migration and other behaviors of this mystifying animal.
In the wild, a manatee can live up to 60 years of age with the right condition. They do seem to do quite well in captivity. However, the females can show signs of stress by not mating for several years after they are placed in captivity. Right now the oldest living manatee in captivity is 51 years of age. His name is Snooty and he was born in captivity in 1948.
While there is evidence that the manatee evolved more than 60 million years ago to survive in water, their time may be running out. They are considered to be vulnerable for extinction at this time. This is due to a combination of things including humans in the water, swallowing fishing line, natural predators, and even global warming. There are many conservation efforts in place though so hopefully these amazing mammals will be able to continue being a part of the Earth for millions more years.
There are a couple of drawbacks involved with such conservation efforts though. First, since an accurate count of them can’t be given we can’t tell if things are getting worse or better until there has been a significant change one way or the other. The second problems is that the number of manatees around the Florida area does seem to increase. This gives the false indication that overall numbers are up. Yet they are really down due to the other populations decreasing in estimated numbers.