Common Name: West Indian Manatee

Scientific Name: Trichechus manatus

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Sirenia

Family: Trichechidae

Genus: Trichechus

Species: T. manatus


The average length of an adult manatee is ten feet. Some manatees can even grow up to 15 feet. The average weight of a manatee is between 200 and 600 kg. Some can grow up to 1500 kg. Newborn manatees measure between 4 feet to 5 feet and they weigh around 30 kg. Something unusual about manatees are that the females grow to be larger then the males. The adult manatees are a grey or brown but the newborns are a darker color. The newborns color changes a month after it is born. Manatees look a little bit like a seal but have no hind flippers. The manatee's lungs are as long as their body, which helps them control how deep or shallow they are in the water.

Manatees are capable of adapting to a large change in its environment. Manatees can move freely between fresh water and marine water. They can be found in shallow rivers, canals, saltwater bays and coastal areas. They can only live in tropical and subtropical waters because they lack body fat and have a slow metabolism. Manatees prefer water that is at least 9 to 15 feet deep. Manatees live in Florida in the winter and migrate as far as Virginia to the north and as far as Louisiana in the summer.

Manatees do well in their environment because there is plenty of food and the waters are not to fast, deep or shallow. Manatees are hunted for their meat, hide and bones. This species is not on the endangered list but in the future it could be. Manatees do not have any predators but their numbers are threatened by human activities. One of the main problems that manatees have with their species dying off is motorboats. They also can be killed from canal locks and from getting tangled in fishing nets. In 1893 a law was made to protect manatees and fines were made for the killing of manatees.

Manatees eat mainly sea grasses that grow on the sea floor. Manatees use their split lip and flippers to help them get the food to eat. Manatees also will eat invertebrates and fish. Because of the low amount of nutrients in the plants, manatees graze 6-8 hours a day. The snout of a manatee is more bent down then other species that they are related to which helps with eating off of the ocean floor.

Manatees don't have any competitors to compete with or predators to stay away from. At first when I got this animal I was kind of disappointed. After a while manatees started to sound interesting. One thing I learned about manatees is that females are bigger then males. That sounded odd but interesting to me. Another thing I liked about manatees is they have no competitors and predators. So they sit around, relax, do nothing and eat. That's the life! Manatees are more interesting then I thought they would be. I loved learning about them.

Author: Allyson U

Published: 02/2007


Animal Diversity Web. 2-8-07 Van Metter, Victoria Brook. "The West Indian Manatee". Florida: Power and Light Company Publishing's, 1989.