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The Florida Manatee

Updated on November 21, 2017
ArtByLinda profile image

Linda is an amateur artist and photographer who loves to travel with her husband of 37 years.

Florida Manatee or West Indian Manatee

"Florida Manatee

Trichechus manatus latirostrus

The Florida Manatee, Florida's state marine mammal, is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. They are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin on which there is often a growth of algae. Their front flippers help them steer or sometimes crawl through shallow water. They also have powerful flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear quite well.

They are gentle giants, that seem to have no fear, nor aggression towards people. They swim in shallow waters, near the surface and are endangered because they often are injured by boats and their props.

The name manati comes from the Taino which are the original peoples of the Caribbean, meaning "breast". They comprise three of the four living species in the order Sirenia, the other being the dugong, which is native to the Eastern Hemisphere. The Sirenia is thought to have evolved from four-legged land mammals over 60 million years ago, with the closest living relatives being the Proboscidea (elephants) and Hyracoidea (hyraxes)." (1)

The photo above is a watercolor called ~Lana's Manatee, by Linda Hoxie. Which started me on the path of learning about the gentle Manatee, and I fell in love with their sweet nature

Looking into the eyes of a Manatee

Into the eyes of the innocent Manatee
Into the eyes of the innocent Manatee | Source

Just how big are they?

How big is a manatee?

They average a length of ten to twelve feet, and weigh 1,500-1,800 lbs.

Calves are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measuring about three to four feet. They nurse underwater.

What does a Manatee eat, to keep all that weight?

Manatees are herbivores (plant-eaters), feeding on a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants. Seagrass beds and freshwater submerged aquatic vegetation are important feeding sites for manatees.

Manatees can eat 10 - 15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. A 453-kilogram (1,000-pound) manatee, for example, would probably eat between 45-68 kilograms (100 - 150 pounds) of food a day.

These are some of the foods they eat:

Marine Vegetation

Syringodium filiforme/Manatee grass

Thalassia testudinum/Turtle grass

Halodule wrightii/Shoal grass

Ruppia maritima/Widgeon grass

Freshwater Vegetation

Hydrilla verticillata/Hydrilla*

Vallisneria neotropicalis/Tapegrass, Eelgrass

Eichhornia crassipes/Water hyacinth

Pistia stratiotes/Water lettuce

*Non-native, or exotic, vegetation

Dugong or Manatee in the red sea in Egypt

Dugong or Manatee in the red sea in Egypt taken while snorkeling.  Looks like he is eating while being cleaned by fish.
Dugong or Manatee in the red sea in Egypt taken while snorkeling. Looks like he is eating while being cleaned by fish. | Source

Just how endangered is the Manatee population in Florida?

The largest population of manatees is found in Florida, where there are over 3,000 individuals.

West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Many manatee mortalities are human-related. Most human-related manatee mortalities occur from collisions with watercraft. Other causes of human-related manatee mortalities include being crushed and/or drowned in canal locks and flood control structures; ingestion of fish hooks, litter and monofilament line; and entanglement in crab trap lines. Ultimately, however, loss of habitat is the most serious threat facing manatees today. There are approximately 3,000 West Indian manatees left in the United States.

A close up of a Manatee

This Manatee seems to have a smile, so beautiful!
This Manatee seems to have a smile, so beautiful! | Source

Interesting Manatee Facts

Manatees only have molars to grind their


Manatees chew two times per second.

Manatee teeth are constantly being replaced as

they wear down and fall out.

The intestine of an adult manatee can measure

130 feet long.

Manatees only breath through their nostrils.

Manatee can hold their breath for up to 24


Manatee lungs are 2/3 the length of its body.

A manatee cannot turn its head sideways, it

must turn its whole body.

It takes 13 months for a manatee to be born.

Calves spend two years with their mothers

learning the migration routes.

Where they roam...

Manatees take up residence primarily in Florida's coastal waters during winter. Some individuals migrate as far north as the Carolinas or as far west as Louisiana in summer. In recent years, a manatee traveled to New York and another swam up the Mississippi River!

Behavior and Reproduction

Manatees can be found in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Rarely do individuals venture into waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They normally rest and feed often. Manatees communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.


The reproductive rate for manatees is slow. Female manatees are not sexually mature until about five years of age, and males are mature at approximately nine years of age. On average, one calf is born every two to five years, and twins are rare. The gestation period is about a year. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time.

These gentle giants should be given wide berth

Gentle and kind, please be sure not to get to close or harass these animals.
Gentle and kind, please be sure not to get to close or harass these animals. | Source

Threats and Protection of the Manatee


Destruction and degradation of their coastal and freshwater habitat. The leading known cause of death is by boat strikes; propellers and hulls inflict serious or mortal wounds. Most manatees have a pattern of scars on their backs or tails after surviving collisions with boats. Scientists use these patterns to identify individuals. Manatees are also vulnerable to cold water. They have been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates and suffer harm from exposure to toxic red tide. In addition, a large number of manatees die from unknown causes each year.

Legal Status/Protection

Federally listed as Endangered and state listed as Endangered. *Endangered Species Act; **Marine Mammal Protection Act; Florida Endangered and Threatened Species Act; Florida Administrative Code; Florida Marine Sanctuary Act; ***CITES Appendix 1.

* The Endangered Species Act requires the US federal government to identify species threatened with extinction, identify habitat they need to survive, and help protect both. In doing so, the Act works to ensure the basic health of our natural ecosystems and protect the legacy of conservation we leave to our children and grandchildren.

An aggregation of dugong or manatees

An aggregation of dugong or manatees, yep a group of manatees is called an aggregation!
An aggregation of dugong or manatees, yep a group of manatees is called an aggregation! | Source

Marine Mammal Protection Act

The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits, with certain exceptions, the take of marine mammals in U.S. waters and by U.S. citizens on the high seas, and the importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products into the U.S.

What can you do to help?

If boating follow these tips:

When Boating

Wear polarized sunglasses. They can help eliminate the glare of the sun and enable you to see below the water's surface.

Stay in deep water channels when boating. Avoid boating over seagrass beds and shallow areas where manatees might be feeding. However, be aware that manatees also use deep water channels when traveling.

Look for a snout, back, tail, or flipper breaking the surface of the water. A swirl or flat spot on the water is also created by the motion of the manatee's tail when it dives or swims.

If you see a manatee when operating a powerboat, remain a safe distance away -- 50 feet is the suggested minimum. If you want to observe the manatee, cut the motor, but don't drift over the animal.

Baby Manatee

Use Caution

If you like to jet-ski, water-ski, or participate in high-speed water-sports, choose areas that manatees do not or cannot frequent, such as land-locked lakes or waters well offshore.

Obey posted speed zone signs and keep away from posted manatee sanctuaries.

The propeller scars on Flicker's back (above) are vivid reminders of what can happen

when a manatee meets up with a boat. (Photo courtesy FWCC.)

"Look, but don't touch" is the best policy when swimming or diving. By quietly observing manatees from a distance, you will get a rare opportunity to see the natural behavior of this unique animal. Any other actions might be considered harassment, which is against the law.

My Manatee Guestbook

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    • drmattshepard profile image


      6 years ago

      Awesome Lens. I can tell you put a great deal of effort into it. We all appreciate it.

    • stevehaugse profile image


      7 years ago

      Great photos! I was just in florida last year.. really wanted to do some scuba diving but ended up not having any time. Enjoyed reading your lens, Aloha!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I took a trip to Florida many years ago, when I saw my first Manatee. I immediatley fell in love. I have been trying to get a Manatee Screensaver on my laptop and am having a terrible time. i will keep on trying, in the meantime, I hope everyone who sees this website appreciates the beauty in this gentle giant.. I never tire of watching these magnificent animals. I can no longer travel, that is why I would like the screensaver on my laptop. Thank you for this website. I am 77 years old and my docs tell me I am too old to travel. So you guys keep up the good work about saving our beautiful friends, Thanks.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      I live in Tampa and have seen many, it always is a great sight

    • CruiseReady profile image


      7 years ago from East Central Florida

      Wonderful! I remember my Mom telling me stories about swimming with the Manatees when she was young ... long, long before the days of 'tours.'

    • TEAhug profile image


      8 years ago

      Great Lens! I'm a Florida native and love these guys. Great pictures too.

    • SoftwareVouchers profile image


      8 years ago

      We snorkeled with manatees at Crystal Springs in Florida and it was such a lovely experience. They are such gentle creatures, inquisitive and peaceful. It was a truly memorable visit.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      this creature is really a big one. thanks for your lens.

    • kguru1979 lm profile image

      kguru1979 lm 

      8 years ago

      Nice photographs...

    • puzzlerpaige profile image


      9 years ago

      I'm so glad to find this lens! We moved to a Florida Canal in May and have had several Manatee swim by. We even had one stop by the dock and stayed for 20 or 30 minutes while we held a hose to shower it with a stream of fresh water. It "bathed" rubbing it's whiskers with it's flippers. We did this was before we knew it was illegal to hold a hose in the water for them :-). But I have to say that the experience made a profound impression on our family and even though we loved them before, they are now endearing to us.

    • verymary profile image


      9 years ago from Chicago area

      great model for an animal lens, and add me to the manatee fan list!

    • eclecticeducati1 profile image


      10 years ago

      Great lens! Thank you for sharing so much about such a cool animal. Blessed by an Angel.

    • ZenandChic profile image


      10 years ago

      Wonderful lens! I love the manatee! Blessed by an angel!

    • RaintreeAnnie profile image


      10 years ago from UK

      Wonderful and comprehensive lens on this amazing animal. We need to take good care of the Manatee.

    • buteoflyer2 profile image

      Kathie Miller 

      10 years ago from Southern California

      A wonderful lens with tons of information. Thanks for putting this together. I'll lens roll you and add you to my favorites.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Absolutely great! I love manatees, please take a look at my manatee page, I am going to lensroll your page, thanks for helping to get the word out about this magnificent animal.

    • Meloramus profile image


      11 years ago

      Your lens is great and shows us just why manatees should be protected. 5*

    • evelynsaenz1 profile image

      Evelyn Saenz 

      11 years ago from Royalton

      I love manatees and have been hoping to spy one along the canals of Miami.

      Lensrolled to Alligators and Purple Gallinules lenses.

    • CoolFoto profile image


      11 years ago

      Great lens on manatee! Stars and lensroll to my manatee lens.

    • paperfacets profile image

      Sherry Venegas 

      11 years ago from La Verne, CA

      Your lenses are so artistic. I love the use of your art work in this one.

      I imagine I will see a Giant seal soon. Wonderful lens.

    • Aaron Howard profile image

      Aaron Howard 

      11 years ago

      Nice lens you have here. Beautiful creatures, ahh such peaceful creatures.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      An amazing lens which deserves lens of the day as far as I am concerned! This video footage is brilliant! you should enter in a competition. It's lovely! :)

      5 Stars and more.


    • Aaron Howard profile image

      Aaron Howard 

      11 years ago

      I love the pictures of art you include. Nice lens...and thank you on behalf of the Manatee's for supporting them and bringing more attention their needs!

    • The Homeopath profile image

      The Homeopath 

      11 years ago

      I would love to see one in the wild someday, I saw them at Epcot and sat for so long just watching them munch lettuce, such sweet creatures.

    • GypsyPirate LM profile image

      GypsyPirate LM 

      11 years ago

      Great manatee information here - I really enjoyed reading your page. I've supported manatees for many years, including 'adopting' several. I usually pick one from Blue Springs Run State Park since I have visited there and been fortunate enough to see manatees while there.

    • MatCauthon profile image


      11 years ago

      I like this animal. One got grounded here in our place. It caused quite a stir.. all the more when local folks cooked. They're in jail now. 5*

    • dreamsgate lm profile image

      dreamsgate lm 

      11 years ago

      very nice lens. They look so sweet, it is too bad they get hurt so often by us.

    • Angelina Howard profile image

      Angelina Howard 

      11 years ago

      What a beautiful lens. I love these gentle giants! 5* for such a masterful lens!!

    • Angelina Howard profile image

      Angelina Howard 

      11 years ago

      What a beautiful lens. I love these gentle giants! 5* for such a masterful lens!!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      I might get a manatee for my pond! ;o)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Great lens. I actually met my first manatees of the coast a couple months ago. They are lovely creatures!

    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho

      Thank you all!

      Susanna, yes, they are of the same order (a relative of the dugong, in the same scientific order of Serenia. There are four living species in that order. I can not imagine them mistaking them for a mermaid, and your right must have been into the rum! lol

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Great lens Didnt know much about manatees but do now

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 

      11 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Are these dugongs? Or cousins of dugongs? On a different note, can you imagine how long those sailors of old were at sea to mistake manatees for mermaids? Crikey! Maybe it was the rum. 5* for an excellent, informative, beautifully presented lens. It was a pleasure to read.

    • dahlia369 profile image


      11 years ago

      I love manatees, they are adorable in spite of their size and this lens is a great tribute to them!

    • Mihaela Vrban profile image

      Mihaela Vrban 

      11 years ago from Croatia

      Wonderful pictures! Great clips! Well done research! Overall 5*****!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Wow, lots of great pics and info here. Good job.

    • MarcoG profile image


      11 years ago from Edinburgh

      Such a lovely lens...these creatures are so beautiful :) x

    • AslanBooks profile image


      11 years ago

      Very interesting...Nice unique topic.

    • YourCover Mama profile image

      YourCover Mama 

      11 years ago

      Great Lens! 5*

    • Paula Atwell profile image

      Paula Atwell 

      11 years ago from Cleveland, OH

      Stunning lens. A few years ago, one of my daughters' teacher used manatees for her theme all year. They learned a lot about them.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 

      11 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      Lovely, lovely lens, I just love it. 5*

    • BFunivcom profile image

      Allan R. Wallace 

      11 years ago from Wherever Human Rights Reign

      Just watching the videos brought a sense of peace. Thanks

    • thepartyanimal2 profile image


      11 years ago

      I love manatee's. When i lived in Florida there was a great place we would go to eat and feed them leftovers over the side on the inter coastal. I just got my daughter a manatee Webkinz we named Conrad - hey add them to your lens. You get 5 gentle giant stars for a job well done.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      This is a wonderful lens! I've always wanted to see a manatee; they're incredible creatures! Thanks for making this page!


    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho


      They have people that are helping to educate the boaters on how to avoid hitting them. It's part of the save the manatee cause.

      Laura, Your very welcome. I think taking your kids to see the manatees would be something they would love!

      My Best regards to you both, Linda

    • Laura Schofield profile image

      Laura Schofield 

      11 years ago from Chicago, IL USA

      Thank you for a fantastic lens. I'd love to take my kids to see the manatees. We've been to Florida once before and had an 'eco' tour, but were in South Florida and the Keys. Next time I definitely want to visit Homosassa Springs and see these guys in person! 5* to you!

    • K Linda profile image

      K Linda 

      11 years ago

      Linda, this is a wonderful lens! I love the manatees as well. They are so huge. Wow, swimming with them...that's cool. I wish the boaters here in Florida would be more careful. Thank you for your comments on my pelican lens. 5*'s for you.

    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho

      Uncle Charley, you are more than welcome. Thank you so much for taking the time to stop by and say hello, I appreciate you! Great luck with your cool and unique windchimes! :-)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Linda,

      Great lens, very informative and educational, I love animals and all natures creatures so I have added this to my favs. 5*

      BTW thanks for the Polaroid tip, I am in the process of adding those now.


    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho

      Ashley, you are certainly welcome, and I am incredibly envious of you. You get to see them all the time, how wonderful!!! Thanks for sharing! Linda

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your help and support, great lens, I give it a top notch rating. What a coincidence, I went to your lens to respond and the first thing I saw was the Florida Manatee. I live in Florida and see Manatees all the time. Just last week I was swimming at the beach and one swam right up to me a few feet away.

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Hi Linda,

      Thank you for your help and support, great lens, I give it a top notch rating. What a coincidence, I went to your lens to respond and the first thing I saw was the Florida Manatee. I live in Florida and see Manatees all the time. Just last week I was swimming at the beach and one swam right up to me a few feet away.

    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho


      Thank you so much, I really appreciate it! :-)


    • aka-rms profile image

      Robin S 

      11 years ago from USA

      Super job on this great lens! I love the manatees!

    • ArtByLinda profile imageAUTHOR

      Linda Hoxie 

      11 years ago from Idaho

      hesika, your very welcome!

      Michelle, Thank you very much, aren't they incredible.

      WhiteBison, Thank you, I really appreciate each of you stopping by!


    • whitebison2 profile image


      11 years ago

      Great work, and great artwork! I like the layout of the lens, and the pictures of course look great. I've seen one once in Florida, but I've been on the lookout ever since when I visit there. Good luck with your preservation efforts!

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      What a nice lens you have here. I love manatees, they are such peaceful creatures. Thank you for raising awareness about them. :)

    • profile image


      11 years ago

      Thank you so much for this lens, which me showed the wonderful species of Manatee and gave me a lot information about them.


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