8 Surprising Facts About Manatees

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Many people know that a manatee is a large slow moving creature often referred to as a sea cow. Few know about how friendly, intelligent and engaging the manatee actually is. Those who have had a chance to interact with the gentle giant know better though. Here are eight facts about the endangered species that may surprise you.

1. Manatees have been spotted as far north as Cape Cod. Although they are most commonly found in the waters around Florida and the Caribbean, manatees have been spotted off the coast of Massachusetts in rare cases. This is a very impressive feat since manatees usually travel at about 5 mph.

2. They have a never-ending supply of teeth. Unlike humans, manatees generate new teeth all their lives. This is useful since their diet causes their teeth to be worn down and fall out quickly. Luckily their friendly nature means all those teeth are never a threat to humans.

3. The manatee’s closest relative is the elephant. Believe it or not, the world’s largest land animal is the closest living land relative of the marine mammal. Manatees even have four nails at the end of their flippers similar to the toenails on an elephant’s feet.

4. Manatees eat 10 percent of their body weight every day. With a fully grown adult manatee weighing in between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds, this means they can eat up to 200 pounds of food a day. This is especially impressive given that their diet is mostly ocean vegetation. For comparison, imagine an average person eating up to 20 pounds of seaweed a day!

5. They have the smallest brain to body size ratio of any mammal. Yes, manatees have a small brain when compared to the size of their bodies, but that does not mean they are stupid. Manatees have shown some of the same problem-solving skills as dolphins. Plus, just ask anyone who has had a chance to swim with manatees and they will tell you this friendly mammal is very intelligent.

6. People are the biggest threat to these wonderful creatures. Manatees do not have any natural predators, but this does not mean they are totally safe. Collisions with boats claim the lives of many manatees every year. Largely because of these collisions, human activity is the biggest threat to manatees.

7. Manatees can be picky about their water. Just like many people, manatees like warm water for swimming. Also, despite their large size, manatees cannot tolerate colder temperatures. So in the cooler winter months, manatees are known to seek out warm spring-fed water to keep warm. Places like Crystal River, Florida, see huge numbers of manatees come to their waters to stay warm. Tourists and residents can even swim with the lovable sea cows here.

8. Christopher Columbus mistook manatees for mermaids. On his voyages to the New World, Columbus claimed he spotted several mermaids in the waters of what is now the Caribbean. He must have been at sea too long however, since evidence shows they were actually manatees that Columbus had mistaken for the mermaids.

Bonus fact: If manatees seem like interesting animals, you may be happy to know that you can have a chance to swim and interact with them. Places like Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees at King’s Bay in Crystal River, Florida, offer people the chance to swim with these interesting and friendly animals in their natural habitat.

For more information on manatees and manatee tours, visit the Captain Mike’s Swimming With The Manatees website.

Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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