1. They’re also called sea cows.
Who couldn’t love an animal known as a sea cow?
2. They share our love of food.
Manatees are voracious herbivores, consuming around 100 to 200 pounds of sea grasses and weeds every day. In fact, about seven hours of this marine mammal’s day are spent snacking. That’s the life!
3. They’re related to elephants!
Elephants are distant relatives of manatees and share similar traits: tough skin, bristle-like hair covering their entire body and teeth that are continually replaced.
4. They’re awesome swimmers.
Manatees can hold their breath for 15 to 20 minutes and can swim at speeds up to 15 miles per hour, using their strong tails to propel themselves through the water.
5. Manatee calves look like this:
Go ahead and “awww.” You know you want to.
6. They’re big fans of the Bay.
Not exactly, but one manatee in particular seems to enjoy visiting the Chesapeake. Chessie, as he was named, was sighted in the northern Chesapeake Bay in July 1994, and then again in July 1995. He couldn’t stay away!
7. Christopher Columbus thought they were mermaids.
It’s true. Columbus and other early explorers reported sightings of female figures swimming in the ocean. It’s now understood that many of these “mermaids” were actually manatees.
8. They’ve been around forever.
Well, not forever—but 50 million years is impressive to say the least. These mammals likely arose in the early Eocene Epoch. The oldest fossils were discovered in Jamaica.
9. They communicate through cute little chirps and squeaks.
10. They need our help!
Despite no natural predators in the wild, manatees are listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species. As you might of guessed, their vulnerability status is due to human activity—specifically, powerboat collisions and residential and commercial development along rivers and waterways. Find out what you can do to help these amazing mammals by visiting the Defenders of Wildlife website.