Manatees, also known as sea cows, are large marine mammals that belong to the order Sirenia, like Dugongs. They have a rotund body shape, with a large head and a rounded, hairless tail.
They can grow up to 4.5 m (14.8 ft) long and weigh as much as 590 kg (1,300 lbs). Their skin is thick and grayish-brown, and their front flippers have nails on the tips of the fingers. They have small eyes, no external ears and two nostrils on the top of their snout.
Manatees are found in warm coastal waters and rivers in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and the Amazon basin in South America. They are known to occupy a wide variety of freshwater, brackish and saltwater habitats, including seagrass beds, mangrove swamps, and freshwater rivers.
Manatees are herbivores and feed mainly on seagrass, aquatic plants and fruits. They are known to eat over 60 different species of plants. They use their large incisors and molars to chew and grind the plants.
Manatees are generally slow-moving, peaceful animals. They are known to be curious and can be approached by humans. They are solitary creatures, but they may be found in small groups, especially during the mating season.
They can hold their breath for about 20 minutes and spend most of their time submerged, occasionally coming to the surface to breathe.
There are three species of manatees: the West Indian manatee, the Amazonian manatee, and the West African manatee. The Florida Manatee is a Subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. These three species are grouped into the family Trichechidae and belong to the order Sirenia.
Conservation status: All species of manatees are currently listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Their population numbers are decreasing due to hunting and habitat loss.