I am going to be very honest. I had no idea what manatees were until recently. Known as the cow of the sea, manatees are creatures that we do not talk about as much. They look cuddly and teddy bear-like and it is likely that one wants to touch them. Manatees are fascinating creatures that ought to be studied more.
If your little one, too, has never heard of these creatures, then maybe it is time you introduce them to him or her. This article, “11 Amazing Manatee Facts for Kids” will give you all the pointers to tell your kids about these creatures of the sea.
11 Interesting & Fun Facts about Manatees (Sea Cow) for Kids
1. They live in the shallow waters
Although there are different species of manatees that live in either saltwater or freshwater, most of them prefer living in the shallower parts. They are herbivores and feed on algae and seagrass.
What is interesting about them is that they spend most of their time eating greens to the point that one-tenth of their body weight is plant mass.
2. Manatees can maintain their body pressure
Usually, animals that live in freshwater cannot survive in saltwater and vice versa. However, the West-Indian and West-African manatees are easily able to move between different sources of water.
Their internal regulation system and the kidneys maintain their body pressure and salt concentration.
3. Warm water is a must for certain manatee species
Even though the West-Indian and West-African manatee can move between saltwater and freshwater sources they must have access to warm water. These animals have very low fat protection.
On top of that their metabolic rates are also very low. And hence, they must live in warm water. Make no mistake by assuming they have a lot of fat just because they seem big. Their big bodies are mostly the stomach and the intestines.
4. They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes
Living in the water it is expected for these creatures to be able to hold their breath for a longer duration. Although typically manatees go to the surface of the water for every three to five minutes, they can, if circumstances force them, hold their breath for 20 straight minutes.
5. Manatees have sensitive whiskers called vibrissae
Adult manatees have extremely sensitive whiskers on their faces. These are thick hairs and there are about 2000 on their faces. Not just those, one can find them on the bodies as well amounting to 3000 more. These hairs help them explore the surrounding areas and they are really sensitive to touch.
6. A manatee’s closest living relatives are elephants
Looking at a manatee, one is bound to make a connection with the sweet elephants. It is believed that the manatees and the elephants evolved from the same land animals over 50 million years ago. One can say that these two creatures had one common ancestor.
7. They can always replace their broken teeth
An interesting fact about the manatees is that they can continue to replace their broken teeth if they have any.
Unlike human beings who cannot replace their permanent teeth in case of a loss, both elephants and manatees keep replacing their teeth. The older teeth at the front fall out and new teeth start growing from the back.
8. The original species of manatees were larger than as we see them now
Like most animals that we see today, the manatees too used to be extremely large and are now unfortunately extinct. It is believed by the researchers that the largest member of the manatees’ family was the Steller’s Sea Cow.
It was believed to be living in the waters in between Japan and The United States of America (The Pacific Ocean). The first-ever description of the Steller’s Sea Cow was made in 1741 by Georg Wilhelm Stellar near the coasts of Russia. However, within 27 years the creature was driven to extinction.
9. Christopher Columbus mistook them for mermaids
Can you imagine that the earliest reports of mermaid sightings were actually not mermaids but manatees!
Many early explorers including Christopher Columbus claimed to have spotted mermaids swimming in the ocean. While we do not have any proof of mermaids, many of these mermaid sightings were later revealed to be manatees.
10. Their brain to body size is the lowest for any mammal
We all know how our brains look. There are so many folds and in and outs in the brain. This is true for most mammals. However, when it comes to manatees, their brains are smooth. The ratio of their brain to body size is the lowest that is possible in any mammal.
Don’t let this fool you though! This is because manatees are capable of learning basic tasks and can differentiate between colours.
11. Manatees have no natural predators
To find an animal that has no natural predators is rather uncommon. We all are aware of the food chain after all. However, manatees are one of those creatures that have no predators.
This does not mean that they are not at the risk of extinction. Human beings have played an enormous part in hunting them down and making them endangered species, unfortunately.
What are the Different Types of Manatees?
Manatees are mainly of three types. These are as follows-
1. West-Indian Manatee
The largest of all the three manatees, the West-Indian manatee is greyish or brownish in colour with a rounded tail and nails on its forelimbs.
2. West-African Manatee
Almost similar in size to the West-Indian manatee, the West-African manatee has a blunt snout. They can live in both salt water and fresh water.
3. Amazonian Manatee
The Amazonian manatee is the smallest of the three types of manatees and they have smooth skin. They live in fresh water and are the only ones to not have nails on their forelimbs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. What is the scientific name for a manatee?
The scientific name of manatees is Trichechus.
Q. What is a manatee baby called?
Baby manatees are called calves.
Q. What is a female manatee called?
A female manatee is called a cow.
Q. How much does a baby manatee weigh?
A baby manatee weighs 66 pounds.
Q. How smart is a manatee?
Manatees are not the smartest creatures. However, they are capable of learning basic tasks and distinguishing colours.
Q. How fast can a manatee swim?
A manatee on an average can swim at a speed of 30 kilometres per hour.
Q. Do manatees fart?
Yes, manatees do fart. In fact, it is very necessary that they do so as constipated ones cannot swim properly. They also have fart storage pouches.
Q. How does a manatee sleep?
The manatees have a unihemispheric sleep. This means that half of the brain is alert when the other half is asleep. Since they do not have gills, they have to come to the surface to breathe. Hence, the alert part of the brain helps them to do so.
Q. How big do manatees get?
Manatees usually measure up to 13 feet in length and weigh around 1300 pounds.
Q. How long does a manatee live?
Manatees can live up to 60 years.
Q. What colour are manatees?
Usually, manatees are grey or brownish grey with the exception of Amazonian manatees who have white or pink patches.
Q. Do manatees cry?
There is no proof to support whether manatees cry or not. However, they have a thick muscle like substance that covers their eyes, making it look like they are crying.
Q. Do manatees have teeth?
Yes, manatees do have teeth. But unlike humans, they have only grinding teeth that can be continuously replaced.
Q. How often does Manatee replace their teeth?
Manatees can replace their teeth throughout their lives.
Q. Do manatees drink water?
Yes, manatees do drink water but they do not need to drink water every day.
Q. What do manatees do for fun?
Manatees are playful animals that do flips underwater and can even swim upside down.
Q. Do manatees make sounds?
Yes, manatees do make sounds while communicating with each other. These sounds can be chirps or whistles or squeaks.
Q. Is swimming with manatees illegal?
There is only one place in the whole world where one can swim with the manatees in North America. That place is in the crystal river.
Q. Do sharks attack manatees?
Sharks may occasionally attack manatees. However, they do not actively hunt for large animals such as manatees.
Q. How much food does a manatee eat each day?
Manatees on an average eat about 100 to 200 pounds of greens every day.
Q. How do manatees breathe?
The manatees do not have gills and hence they have to come to the surface of the water every 3 to 5 minutes to breathe. However, they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.
Q. How long can manatees hold their breath?
Manatees can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.
Q. Do manatees live in saltwater or freshwater?
Some manatees live in saltwater and some live in freshwater.
Q. How long have manatees been around?
Manatees are believed to have evolved from the same land animal as the elephants did around 50 million years ago.
Q. What are the manatee’s predators?
Manatees have no natural predators. However, human activities have resulted in these species being driven into extinction because of how badly they have been hunted.
That was it, folks! You have reached the end of the article “11 Amazing Manatee Facts for Kids”. I hope you had a great time reading some interesting information about these fascinating creatures.
These sea cows are gentle animals who mean no harm to us. It should be our responsibility to take care of these gentle creatures and make the world a safe place for them.