Manatees are enormous sea species that, despite their overall size, are social herbivores. They possess the ability to complete certain cognitive tasks.

Trichechus Manatus, commonly known as Manatee, is really any of three primary kinds of huge, sluggish aquatic animals that may be found in the interior waterways or tropical and subtropical Atlantic coastlines.

The Amazonian Manatee, the West Indian Manatee, and the West African Manatee are the three acknowledged extant species of Trichechid, each of which represents one of the three species of the order.

Manatees swim gracefully in streams and shoreline waterways despite their enormous stature. Manatees often glide across the water by using their powerful tails to propel themselves.

Featured Image Credit: Ramos Keith


All three Manatee species have strong tapering bodies that finish in a flattened, rounded tail and are dull gray, blackish, or brown in color. Manatees range in weight from 880 to 1,210 lbs and can reach lengths of up to 15 ft and approximately 4,000 lbs. Females tend to be bigger and heavier than male Manatees.

Two Manatees foraging together for food
Two Manatees foraging together for food

Credit:  Reid, Jim P

Manatees have tiny, widely spread eyes that shut in a circular pattern. The Manatee’s broad, supple, and opposable top lip is essential for communication, gathering sustenance, and social engagement. Manatees, on the other hand, are mostly solitary animals, with the exception of mothers and their young or males pursuing a willing mate.


Manatees are herbivores that consume different types of saltwater and freshwater plants, including shoal grass, widgeon grass, sea clover, Manatee grass, turtle grass, and marine algae. Examples of some of the plants they consume include floating hyacinth, pickerelweed, alligator weed, water lettuce, and mangrove leaves.

An adult Manatee will often consume up to 15% of their body weight each day using their split upper lip. To consume this much, the Manatee must pasture for 6-8 hours daily. Manatees use intestine fermentation to aid in digestion in order to handle the high quantities of fiber in their diet. Small quantities of fish caught in nets have been found to be consumed by Manatees.


One subspecies of the West Indian Manatee can be spotted periodically in the waterways of neighboring states of Florida. The other subspecies are found in rivers, ports, wetlands, and shoreline waters in eastern Mexico, along the coast of Central America, and in northern South America. The Antillean Manatee gets its name because it also lives near the Caribbean islands of the Greater Antilles.

Close-up of a curious Manatees face
Close-up of a curious Manatees’ face

Credit: gene stevens

The Amazon River and its surrounding drainage regions, including forests that occasionally flood, are home to the Amazonian Manatee. Only found in freshwater, this species may be found deep inside countries like Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Colombia. From Senegal to Angola, coastal regions and slow-moving rivers are home to the West African Manatee. However, some of these rivers extend well inland.


Manatees normally give birth to one calf every two years during the breeding season. Although females may have more than one estrous cycle each year, gestation lasts around 12 months, and nursing the calf takes another 12 to 18 months. 

A Manatee is born in the water. Mothers must assist their calves to the surface so they can breathe for the first time, but it usually takes them an hour before they can swim independently. Manatee calves consume their moms’ milk.


Large, sluggish Manatees are common in rivers and coastal areas. They are exposed to hunters who are after their carcasses, fats, and leather due to these characteristics. Over the past century, Manatee populations have decreased, primarily due to hunting activity. Manatees are endangered nowadays.

Affectionate Manatee approaches human hand
An affectionate Manatee approaches the human hand

Credit: Sean McCann

Despite being covered by legislation, they nonetheless face threats. In ever-crowdier waterways, the kind creatures are frequently unintentionally run over by speedboats and occasionally get ensnared in fishing nets.

Facts about the Manatee

  1. In brief spurts, Manatees may swim up to 20 miles per hour.
  2. Manatees can stay submerged for 20 minutes when resting.
  3. In particular, between mothers and their calves, Manatees communicate using a variety of noises.
  4. Manatees are capable of comprehending tasks requiring judgment.
  5. Manatees can live up to 60-70 years.


Can a Manatee hurt you?

Manatees are quiet, tranquil sea creatures that don’t endanger swimmers. They are observant creatures that value human contact and are content to engage with and be near people. Because of this, Manatees frequently approach divers or swimmers for a belly rub or other close contact.

Do Manatees scream?

The most typical Manatee calls are squeaks, loud squeaks, and yelps. Manatees can make each of these calls when grazing, frolicking or resting; they frequently alter each sound depending on the circumstance or action.

Do sharks bother Manatees?

Researchers believe sharks, alligators, or crocodiles may occasionally attack West Indian Manatees, even though predation has not been confirmed. Manatees in West Africa are occasionally prey for crocodiles and sharks. Amazonian Manatees are targets for jaguars, caimans, and sharks.

Are Manatees intelligent?

Manatees are exceptionally intelligent animals despite having one of the tiniest brains known to exist. Manatees are as skilled at experimental tasks as dolphins, one of the brightest creatures in the world, despite having the lowest brain-to-body ratio of any marine mammal.

How long can Manatees be out of water?

Manatees rarely exit the water. However, they usually surface every five minutes to breathe. The manatee may hold its breath for up to 20 minutes while it is at rest, depending on its degree of activity. A Manatee may emerge up to once every 30 seconds when it is extremely active.

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