What Do Manatees Eat?

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That gentle creature, the manatee, is really a bit mysterious. But it is known to be primarily an herbivore and feast on vegetation found both at the bottom of bodies of water and shoreline plants.An adult manatee normally consumes between 4% and 9% of its body weight daily. That is equivalent to between 32-108 lb a day. There are more than 60 species of plant life that manatees eat.

A wide variety of grasses such as turtle grass and manatee grasses are eaten as well as floating plants like sea algae. They also like water hyacinth, hydrilla, mangrove leaves and even acorns.

In some parts of the world like West Africa, manatees have been seen eating netted fish and clams. They also eat the greens in rice fields and are considered to be terrible pests.

Some manatees, such as those found in West Africa and the West Indies do require fresh water for drinking and have sometimes been found drinking out of garden hoses and sewage run outs, as well as the mouths of rivers. Scientifically it is thought that most manatees need a source a fresh drinking water from time to time.

Manatees have very flexible lips and use them and their flippers to get to vegetation. They usually feed on the sea floor, on the water’s surface, or in a water column. But they also feed on the leaves of the mangrove tree, and eat plant life on the shoreline. They are able to pull themselves partially out of the water to reach bank plants.

Manatees also fast during the waters’ dry season, as water levels drop considerably. Some manatees have been known to fast as long as 7 months, but generally it is only for about 2 months.

The manatee’s feeding habits are basically very simple, and these unassuming animals have never posed a threat to others.


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