ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

What Is a Manatee?

Updated on September 18, 2019
TripleAMom profile image

Wendy is a native Floridian who loves manatees. She loves to travel with family when not treating patients as an LCSW.

What is a Manatee?


Types of Manatees

Manatees, also called Sea Cows, are marine mammals that reside in the warm waters off the coast of Florida, South America, Africa. There are three species of manatees, the Amazonian manatee that lives along the Amazon River's drainage in South America, the African manatee that lives along the coast of Western Africa, and the West Indian manatee that lives along the southern and eastern coast of the US. Two of the three species of manatees have been listed as endangered in the past. In 1967, the West Indian manatee, also known as the Florida manatee, was listed as endangered, and in 1970 the Amazonian manatee was placed on the list. Due to conservation efforts, discussed later, however, in 2017 the Florida manatee's status was changed from endangered to threatened.

Specifically the Florida Manatee

The three types of manatees have many similar characteristics, so this article will specifically focus on the Florida Manatee. The Florida manatee is a dull gray color. It has a rounded snout with a long, tapered body and a flat, rounded tail that it uses for swimming. It has small flippers in front but none in back. Manatees need warm water for their survival, so in the warm months, they are found in waters off the coast of Florida mostly, but they can also be found in coastal waters around neighboring states. In colder months, when the water temperature begins to drop, manatees must find warmer water, so they move inland into the many springs throughout Florida such as Homassassa Springs and Manatee Springs, and the warm waters from power stations surrounding Kennedy Space Center and other large industrial areas. Manatees can not tolerate water temperatures below 68 degrees Fahrenheit, and spring waters stay at a consistent temperature throughout the year that averages approximately 72 degrees Fahrenheit. They tend to migrate back to their same winter spot each year and it is common to see 300 or more together.

Florida manatees can grow to 8-13 feet long and can weigh up to 3,650 pounds. They are herbivores, eating many different types of water plants. They can consume up to 10% of their body weight daily, which is a very large amount of vegetation. Manatees in captivity are fed lettuce and green plants.

As mammals, manatees must breathe air to live. They can remain submerged for about 20 minutes at a time, and when they surface for air, they replenish about 90% of their air supply.

Female manatees give birth to one calf about every two or three years. The mother provides milk for the baby for one to two years, and they are taught very early to eat plants as well.

Two rehabbing manatees
Two rehabbing manatees | Source

Manatee Conservation

Though they have been on the endangered list and are now on the threatened list, manatees have no natural predator. There are no animals in nature that hunt manatees. Years ago, manatees were hunted for their meat and pelts. As their numbers dwindled, it became illegal to hunt or disturb them. Now the main concerns for manatees include drowning in fishing nets, collisions with motor boats, dwindling habitats, and unusually cold winters in Florida which cause waters to cool down quickly.

Efforts are being made to attempt to control some of these conditions. For example, Florida has established "no wake" zones in areas where manatees are commonly found which means that motorized watercraft must slow down in these areas and watch for the animals. There are also advocates for restoring natural springs in Florida to protect the habitats of the manatees. Most importantly, there are many education programs aimed at teaching children and adults about manatees and how to protect them. Programs such as Save the Manatee Club and Defenders of Wildlife put out educational material, allow the public to adopt a manatee (figuratively), and assist in getting laws passed. Rehabilitation programs such as ones found at Homassassa Springs, Miami Seaquarium, and Seaworld Orlando take in sick or injured manatees and rehabilitate them, then either return them to the wild, or if they determine this is not possible, they will place them in a long term habitat. This allows the public to view manatees up close when they might otherwise not be able to, and receive education about manatees.

Homassassa Springs manatee
Homassassa Springs manatee | Source
Snacking on lettuce
Snacking on lettuce | Source

Fascinating Facts

  • A group of manatees is called an aggregation.
  • Manatees were often mistaken for mermaids. It was noted that in 1493 Christopher Columbus mistook a manatee for a mermaid in one of his voyages to the new world.
  • Manatees are most closely related to elephants.
  • Manatees continually replace their teeth throughout their lifetime, with older ones falling out and new ones coming in behind them.
  • The oldest living manatee born in captivity was born on July 21, 1948. He was named Snooty. He died on July 23, 2017, 2 days after his 69th birthday.
  • A male manatee is a bull, a female is a cow, and a baby manatee is a calf.
  • The gestation period for pregnant female manatees is 11-13 months.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 TripleAMom


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      7 months ago from Florida

      Marlene that’s great that she is supporting manatees They are fascinating and amazing animals very docile animals though they look intimidating. Glad you were able to learn more about them

    • MarleneB profile image

      Marlene Bertrand 

      7 months ago from USA

      My daughter supports an organization that is looking out for the preservation of manatees. I often wondered what a manatee was and why she picked them to save. Now I know. They are fascinating mammals.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 months ago from Olympia, WA

      Wendy, it's good to have you back among us. I'm sorry I missed this one earlier. As for manatees, I gotta tell ya, it would freak me out to be swimming and have one of them bump my leg. lol You guys in Florida have all sorts of creepy, crawly, swimmy things we don't have here in Washington. :)

    • PegCole17 profile image

      Peg Cole 

      8 months ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

      Living in Florida in my youth, I remember seeing these creatures in canals and shallow water where boats docked. They are truly fascinating. It's a relief to know that their numbers are increasing again. Thanks for these great photos and some history and facts about them.

    • TripleAMom profile imageAUTHOR


      8 months ago from Florida

      ES- Manatees are amazing and any time we see one here in Fl it is magical. They are huge but very gentle. This is why they are so much at risk from people. They are curious. We were in the Keys once and a manatee swam into the boat basin. He rolled in his back and was slurping the fresh water from a boaters hose who was washing his boat. Later we were snorkeling outside of the basin and he was right below us eating. It was amazing to watch him.

    • Erudite Scholar profile image

      Jeff Zod 

      8 months ago from Nairobi

      Hi TAM,

      I really enjoyed reading this article. The manatee is a very fascinating creature. I watched a documentary about the Amazon manatee a while back and I was intrigued at the sheer size of these animals. They need to be protected from human activities though.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)