20 breathtaking photos of manatees in honour of Manatee Awareness Month

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Manatees are known as the cows of the sea.

These gentle giants have captured our imagination for centuries. They’re the animals Christopher Columbus likely saw when he reported seeing mermaids swimming in the ocean near the Dominican Republic in 1493 – although the supposed mermaids were “not as beautiful as they are represented,” the explorer wrote.

Though the manatee has no natural predators, these slow creatures were on the endangered species list for years due to human activity like hunting and boating. However, these intelligent mammals are making a comeback and were taken off the endangered species list in 2017, though they are still considered threatened.

With November 1 marking the beginning of Manatee Awareness Month, here are 20 breathtaking pictures of manatees.


The manatee earned its playful nickname “sea cow” in part because manatee is derived from the Carib word “manati,” or “udder.”

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Source: Smithsonian


These gentle giants evolved from elephant-like land mammals almost 50 million years ago.

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Source: Smithsonian


It is thought that the “mermaids” Christopher Columbus and his crew spotted on their maiden voyage to the Americas were actually manatees.

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Source: Smithsonian


There are three primary species of manatees — the West Indian manatee, the Amazonian manatee, and the West African manatee.

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Source: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment


After giving birth, mother manatees will stay with their calves throughout their nursing period, which lasts up to two years.

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Source: Save the Manatee


Male manatees, on the other hand, take no role in raising their calves as soon as the mating process is over.

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Source: Save the Manatee


While male manatees may not have many paternal instincts, all manatees are equipped with complex social abilities. Manatees communicate through a sophisticated system of underwater clicks and whistles.

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Source: Seaworld


Perhaps contributing to their “sea cow” nickname, manatees can eat up to 10% of their body weight each day.

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Source: Awesome Ocean


These gentle herbivores spend most of their days grazing on sea plants and resting.

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Source: Save the Manatees


So it should come as no surprise that fully grown manatees can weigh over half a ton.

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Source: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment


One Florida manatee actually reached 3,650 pounds — over one and a half​ tons.

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Source: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment


Though one might assume manatees’ large bodies are mainly made up of fat, their intestines and stomach make up a bulk of their abdominal​ mass.

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Source: Save the Manatee


Don’t let their watery habitat and natural swimming abilities fool you. These gentle giants are actually mammals and typically surface every three to five minutes for air.

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Source: Smithsonian


Manatees typically live in coastal, shallow waters and rivers.

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Source: Smithsonian


Because these docile creatures are so slow, algae sometimes grow​ on their bodies, changing the colour and texture of their skin.

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Source: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment


Despite the manatee’s aquatic habitat, its closest relative is actually a land-bound giant — the elephant.

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Source: Save the Manatees


These cuddly giants can live to be 50 to 60 years old.

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Source: Seaworld Parks and Entertainment


While manatees have no natural predators, they’re threatened by human activities like hunting, boating, and jet skiing. West Indian manatees were put on the endangered species list after Florida’s numbers dwindled to 1,267 in 1991.

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Sources: Smithsonian,Time,The Christian Science Monitor


Fortunately, the species was taken off the endangered list in 2017 after its population rebounded to 6,300 in the wild, although the species is still considered “threatened.”

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Source: Time,US Fish and Wildlife Service, Christian Science Monitor


In honour of Manatee Awareness Month this November, make sure you share some knowledge about these gentle giants.

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