Aquatic and Land Animal Diversity

Aquatic Mammals

What are manatees?

In the winter, the marine mammal called the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus) moves to the more temperate parts of Florida, such as the warm headwaters of the Crystal and Homosassa rivers in central Florida or the tropical waters of southern Florida. When the air temperature rises to 50°F (10°C), it will wander back along the Gulf Coast and up the Atlantic Coast as far as Virginia. Long-range offshore migrations to the coast of Guyana and South America have been documented. In 1983, when the population of manatees in Florida was reduced to several thousand, the state gave it legal protection from being hunted or commercially exploited. However, many animals continue to be killed or injured by environmental problems (such as water pollution or “red tide,” also known as algal blooms) and the encroachment of humans. Entrapment in locks and dams, collisions with barges and power boat propellers, and so on cause at least 30 percent of manatee deaths, which total 125 to 130 annually. According to researchers, it is difficult to tell how many manatees are in all of Florida’s waters, but in 2013, estimates put the animal’s population at about 5,000. (For more about manatees and algal blooms, see the chapter “Environment and Ecology.”)


This is a web preview of the "The Handy Biology Answer Book" app. Many features only work on your mobile device. If you like what you see, we hope you will consider buying. Get the App