Dugongs have a distinctive body shape, with a large, broad, rounded body and a relatively small head. They have a paddle-like tail and flippers for forelimbs, and their skin is thick and wrinkled, typically gray or brown in color.
They have a small amount of hair on their body, but it is not visible due to the thickness of their skin. Their upper lip is split into two, which they use to dig up seagrass to eat. They have small, peg-like teeth that are continually replaced throughout their lifetime.
They are large animals, fully grown dugongs typically range from 2.5 – 3.4 meters (8.2 – 11.15 ft) in length and weight around 250 – 400 kg (551 – 882 lbs)
Dugongs live in warm coastal waters of the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans, including countries such as Australia, India, and the Red Sea. They prefer shallow, seagrass-rich habitats, such as bays, lagoons, and estuaries.
Dugongs are strictly herbivorous, feeding almost exclusively on seagrasses. They use their split upper lip to dig up the seagrass and their peg-like teeth to chop it into small pieces before swallowing. They have a specialized digestive system that enables them to break down the tough seagrass fibers.
Dugongs are typically solitary animals, they can also be found in small groups. They are slow-moving and spend most of their time grazing on seagrass.
They can remain underwater for up to six minutes, but typically resurface for air every 3-5 minutes. They are known to be curious and will often approach boats and divers in the wild.
There is only one extant species of dugong, known as Dugong dugon, belonging to the family Dugongidae, which contains just one other species, the Steller’s sea cow which is extinct.
The dugong is classified as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) due to loss of habitat and hunting.