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Manatees (Trichechus manatus) are endangered aquatic mammals found in Florida's waterways. From its blunt whiskered snout a manatee's body broadens to a torpedo-shape and then flattens into a paddle shaped tail. Manatees have two flippers located close to their heads, which aid them with eating and moving through the water. The manatee shares many of its characteristics with the elephant, its closest land relative.

Manatee fossils found in Florida date back 45 million years. Recent fossil skeletons found in Jamaica show that manatees evolved from a four-legged, plant-eating land animal. Manatees prefer the shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, springs and coastal areas of Florida, particularly where seagrass beds and other aquatic plants flourish.

As mammals, manatees surface to breathe air, nurse their young and have hair (very sparse) on their bodies. The average manatee is ten feet long and weighs about one thousand pounds. The heaviest manatee that scientists weighed was 3,600 pounds.

The manatee is Florida's state marine mammal. Protected by the Endangered Species Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, manatees are moving slowly on the path to recovery.

More Information:

Bureau of Protected Species Management

Florida Marine Research Institute

Fish and Wildlife info on manatee

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