12 Things You Didn’t Know about Manatees

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Big in size, grey-brown in color and elongated in shape, manatees are a marvelous aquatic mammal that dwells in brackish, freshwater or marine systems of river and coastal areas. Commonly found in shorelines with seagrass, eelgrass and other vegetation, manatees feed on both submerged and floating vegetation and spend a large part of their day grazing. Because they can’t survive temperatures below 68 degrees, manatees usually make their way into the constantly warm natural springs and power plant outfalls every November to survive the winter cold. But when summer returns, they expand their range, traveling up to hundreds of miles away, along shorelines and water channels.

Now let us look at some 12 facts about manatees:

  1. The word “manatee” is derived from “manati”, a Carab word that means “breast, udder.” Manatees are also called “sea cows” because they are big in size, graze patiently for hours, feed on a wide variety of grasses, and like to loll around their habitat.
  2. Manatees are the largest herbivore in the ocean. An adult manatee can be as long as 13 feet and as heavy as 1,300 pounds. Each day, a manatee eats 10-15 percent of its weight in vegetation.
  3. Generally, a manatee swims at a speed of 5 mph. But the animal will use its powerful tail to swim at 15 mph in short bursts when threatened or in any situation that calls for increased speed.
  4. Manatees come in three species: Amazonian (T. inunguis), West Indian (T. manatus) and West African (T. senegalensis). They belong to the genus Trichechus and the order Sirenia. The order also includes close manatee cousins such as the Steller’s sea cow (hunted to extinction by 1768) and the dugong (Dugong dugon).
  5. Sailors often thought manatees were mermaids. For instance, Christopher Columbus recorded in his ship log of Jan. 9, 1493, that he saw three mermaids arise from the sea, but concluded the mermaids were not as beautiful as people had said because their faces carried some masculine traits. However, those “mermaids” seen by Columbus were not as beautiful because they were actually manatees.
  6. Manatees replace 90 percent of all the air in their lungs in just one breath, as opposed to humans who replace only 10 percent in a breath. Likewise, the sea giants come to the water surface every 3-5 minutes to breathe, but also can hold their breath and remain submerged for 15-20 minutes.
  7. Manatees are a protected species by both state and federal laws. For instance, according to the Manatee Sanctuary Act, it is unlawful to molest, annoy, disturb, harass, or attempt to harass, molest or disturb an endangered animal at any time, in any manner (negligently or intentionally), or by any means. Under the law, therefore, riding these animals during your manatee tours can get you arrested and charged for distressing an endangered animal.
  8. Manatees are very closely related to the elephant and the hyrax. In fact, while almost all other animals have a heart with a pointed bottom, manatees and elephants have a heart with a rounded bottom.
  9. Manatees are threatened by a wide variety of things, including run-ins with watercrafts, toxic red tides, entanglement in fishing gear, and habitat loss because of waterfront development. About 20 percent of all annual manatee deaths come from collisions with speedboats.
  10. Manatees have 3,000 vibrissae (thick, whisker-like hairs) on their bodies and 2,000 such hairs on their faces. The vibrissae help manatees to sense and explore their surroundings.
  11. Manatees have one of the smallest and smoothest brains of all mammals. That does not mean they are stupid. In fact, recent studies show that manatees are just as clever as dolphins in experimental tasks, although they move slower, are more difficult to motivate and have no taste for fish.
  12. Manatees see in green, blue and gray colors, but never in red. They are nearsighted and have a problem detecting objects until the objects are very close to them.

Are you curious about manatees? Are you planning for a trip to Florida to see these amazing creatures? Whether you are a photographer, conservationist or adventurer dreaming of a remarkable tour, you will need a manatee tour provider based near manatee sites and skilled in delivering unforgettable experiences. At Captain Mike’s, we are committed to giving our clients the most delightful manatee tours without any breaches of manatee protection laws. We will instruct you properly, provide you with the necessary gear and guide you throughout your trip, tailoring it to give you the most value for your money. Looking for more information on manatees and manatee tours? Visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming with the Manatees” site.


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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