Do mermaids really exist?
A good many legends, whether they be Mediterranean, African or American, tell of man-like (or woman-like) creatures rising up out of the sea.
Some large aquatic mammals do exist and live at river-mouths or in lakes. Zoologists have honoured this popular belief by calling the group to which they belong the Sirenia, which means mermaids.
Out of the three families of sirenians that have existed since the development of mammals, only the dugongs and the manatees (two species of sea-cow) remain. A third kind of sea-cow, the Rhytina, was exterminated by seal-hunters at the end of the eighteenth century.
Manatees and Dugongs live in warmer regions: they have very little fur except for the long bristles on their lips that look like some sort of moustache. They sleep during the day, then at night drag themselves on to the water's edge to graze.