M is for Manatee
The manatee is a large marine mammal with a gray brown seal-like body. They have two agile forelimbs that act both as arms and front flippers and a powerful flat paddle shaped tail. They have tough skin with a rough texture and some body hair; their face is wrinkled with stiff whiskers. Manatees produce sound audible to humans. When active, they surface every few minutes to breathe; they can last 10-15 minutes without breathing when they are at rest. One breath will exchange 98% of the air in their lungs, which are also key to their buoyancy control. Their large and powerful upper lips are quite distinctive and useful for feeding. Manatees can grow up to 13 feet in length and can weigh over 3,500 pounds. They are gentle animals; slow moving, spending most of their time eating, resting and traveling. They can travel 40-50 miles per day. Manatees are commonly known as sea cows.
Manatees are found in fresh brackish water, coastal lagoons, bays and estuaries, especially where sea grass beds are present.
Manatees are herbivores; they feed on a variety of marine vegetation. They graze along the water bottoms for sea grass using their upper lips to dig through sediment and guide food into their mouth. Manatees can eat 10%-15% of their body weight daily.
The reproduction rate of manatees is slow. They reproduce once every 2-5 years and they only have one calf, twins are very rare. The male reaches maturity at 6-9 years of age while the female reaches maturity at 5-9 years of age. The gestation period of manatees is 11¬13 months and the calf stays with its mother for 1-2 years. Calves weigh approximately 40 pounds at birth.
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