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The manatee, (Trichechus manatus,) also called a sea cow, is a gray, waterplant-eating, gentle giant that reaches eight to fourteen feet in length and can weigh more than a ton. The manatee was designated the Florida state marine mammal in 1975.
Manatees are on the endangered species list, but chances for their survival are good if humans' activities can be controlled. Of all the known causes of manatee fatalities, humans are responsible for about half of the deaths. The most-common cause of death for manatees is being struck by boats and barges. Also, the propeller blades of speeding boats can cut a manatee's hide to ribbons. The Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 and later regulations have limited the speed of boats in waters populated by manatees during winter months, when more than 1,500 of the creatures swim to warm bays and rivers to avoid pneumonia and death.
Whatever the name - Sea
Cow, Big Beaver, Mermaid or "Furnished with Hands"- the main place the hulking manatee is found in the United States is Florida.
The State Marine Mammal is an 8'-14' gray, waterplant-eating, gentle giant that can weigh more than a ton.
Manatee may have developed from the Hatian word "manati," which means "big beaver." Although appropriate in its description of this docile, slow-moving mammal, the more likely derivation of the name comes from the Latin "manatus" - meaning "furnished with hands." The manatee's flippers can appear almost hand-like from a distance. That observation plus the presence of a tail perhaps fostered the legend that manatees were "mermaids." Coincidentally, the order to which the manatee belongs is called Sirenia - meaning siren or mermaid. The manatee is on the endangered species list, but chances for its survival are good if man's activities can be controlled. Of all the known causes of manatee mortality, man is responsible for about half of the deaths. The single greatest-known cause of mortality is boats and barges. To a manatee, a speeding boat is more hazardous than disease, weather, poachers, or alligators, for its propeller blades can cut a manatee's thick hide to ribbons.
Some relief has been forthcoming, however, since the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act of 1978 and subsequent regulations from the Governor and Cabinet have limited the speed of boats in the waters populated by the species during winter months when upwards of 1,500 manatees must inhabit warm bays and rivers to avoid pneumonia and death.
The law designating the manatee as the official Florida state marine mammal is found in The Florida Statutes, Title 4, Chapter 15, Section 15.038.
SECRETARY OF STATE
15.038 State marine mammal and state saltwater mammal.-
(1) The manatee, also commonly known as the sea cow, is hereby designated the Florida state marine mammal.
(2) The porpoise, also commonly known as the dolphin, is hereby designated as the Florida state saltwater mammal.
History.- s. 1, ch. 75-75.
Taxonomic Hierarchy: West Indian Manatee
Species: T. manatus