The living sirenians consist of one species of dugong and three species of manatee. There are three species of manatees, all in the Trichechidea family.
- The West Indian Manatee
- The West African Manatee
- The Amazonian Manatee
Manatees are large, aquatic animals that are gray-brown in color. They have a flat, paddle-shaped tail, 2 flippers and wrinkled faces with whiskers on the snout. The manatee's seal-like body can reach 13-feet in length and can weigh more than 3,000 pounds.
Manatees are slow swimmers. They use their two flippers and a flattened tail to move through the water.
Manatees are herbivores - they can eat 10 to 15% of their body weight daily. Baby manatees nurse from their mothers for about two years, but also begin to graze about a week after they are born.
Manatees are mature when they are 5 to 9 years old. Only one calf is born every 2 to 5 years. Gestation period is approximately 13 months.
Manatees have no natural predators; however, they are an endangered species and their numbers are dwindling. Some people drive their boats too fast and carelessly. Manatees move slowly and cannot get out of the way of the propellers fast enough. Laws have been passed to help protect manatees from people and their boats, but many are still killed or injured by the boats or other mishaps.