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Florida State Marine Mammal

Manatee

Florida State Marine Mammal: Manatee

(Trichechus manatus)

Adopted in 1975

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.

Florida State Marine: Mammal Manatee

Florida State Marine Mammal: Manatee

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.

Characteristics of the Florida Manatees

  • Diet: Manatees are herbivores, with a diet consisting mostly of sea grasses and freshwater vegetation.
  • Population: Although there is no precise census of Florida manatees, today's population is estimated at approximately 5,000 individuals.
  • Range & Habitat:
    Manatees can be found in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Rarely do individuals venture into waters below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.

    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. Manatees have swum as far north as Cape Cod, Massachusetts in recent years.
  • Behavior: 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.
  • Reproduction: Calves are born weighing between 60 and 70 pounds and measuring about 3-4 feet long. They nurse underwater.
  • Mating Season: No specific period
  • Gestation: About 1 year

    Number of offspring: 1 calf

Florida Law

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.

CHAPTER 15
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

Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Sirenia
Family: Trichechidae
Genus: Trichechus
Species: T. manatus

State Mammals
State Mammals & Animals
Mammals are vertebrates (backboned animals) that feed their young on mother's milk.
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