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5 Interesting Facts You Didn’t Know About Manatees

Manatees are strange yet adorable creatures, often referred to as “the cow of the sea.” Manatees can reach up to 10 feet in length and weigh up to 1,200 pounds, so it’s easy to see why so many refute the idea that manatees are the original cause of mermaid myths.

While manatees may not have been luring seafarers into the murky waters hundreds of years ago, they are certainly worth your attention. It’s easy to be captivated by the personable dolphin, awe-inspiring blue whale, or powerful orca, but today we’re going to give you 5 interesting facts that will make you fall in love with the manatee.

1. They move about as fast as we walk.

Manatees generally move slowly, at less than 5 miles per hour when they’re going about their daily routine. This slow pace is often the reason why boats collide with them – thinking they’ll get out of the way quickly. If a manatee believes they are in danger or need to swim quickly, they can get up to 15 miles per hour in short bursts.

The average lifespan of a manatee is around 40 years, or, in the case of the Florida subspecies, up to 60 years!

2. While they’re often called sea cows, manatees are actually distant relatives of elephants!

Manatees and elephants share tough skin, a trunk-like snout (though we often think of their noses more like a muzzle), bristle-like hair, teeth that grow throughout their life, and toenails on their flippers. While manatees share no heritage with cows, manatees do share a slow, peaceful, and occasionally curious disposition with their bovine friends.

3. They’re not fans of cold water, staying in waters at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

They prefer to swim alone or in small groups and they tend to favor shallow water of about six or seven feet deep. These creatures may move slowly but they are active creatures, surfacing for air every four or so minutes. But if they’re tired, they can stay under the water for up to half an hour at a time as they rest.

4. Despite their size and blubber content, manatees are primarily vegetarian.

Unlike many of their omnivorous oceanic neighbors, manatees survive mainly on seagrasses and mangrove leaves. They may have a plant-based diet, but that doesn’t mean they don’t eat a lot! Manatees love to graze and can typically eat about 120 pounds of food every day (that’s around 10% of their body weight!).

5. Manatees play a vital role in the ocean’s ecosystem as they keep the seagrass short and healthy.

Seagrass is important in stabilizing the marine ecosystem as it provides food and shelter to countless oceanic beings. However, when it grows too long the base of the seagrass starts to become unhealthy.