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Manatees: The Cows Of The Sea

1708 words - 7 pages

Manatees, or sea cows, are quite different creatures of the sea. Not only do they swim slowly and awkwardly, they tend to have a rather awkward appearance to accompany this behavior. Even though many haweve heard about these majestic marine mammals, few understand everything there is to know about them. There are three main types of manatees: the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, and the West Indian manatee. The West Indian manatees themselves can be divided into multiple subspecies: the American, Antillean, Caribbean, North American, and Florida manatees. Though there are several kinds of manatees, the West Indian manatee is the most well known in North America.
The taxonomy (Appendix A) of the manatee begins with the kingdom Animilia. After the kingdom, comes the phylum Chordata, and then the class of Mammilia, which is a combination of the human population and most vertebrates. The connection with other mammals ends there. The manatees are then put into a much smaller order, which consists of only three species (one being extinct), with the name of Sirenia. This order obtained its name because of the thought that they looked like Greek mythological creatures called Sirens or mermaids. Biochemical analysis of proteins has been used to determine the distinct relatives of the manatees. These relatives include elephants, aardvarks, and hyraxes. The similarities between these mammals include the lack of collarbone and having nails instead of claws. Adding on to this belief of these mammals being related, evolutionists believe that manatees actually evolved from some kind of wading, plant eating animal (Save the Manatees Club).
The exterior anatomy (Appendix B) of a manatee is not as complex as one would think. It is actually quite easy to explain. Manatees are large aquatic mammals, with thick grey colored skin, which covers their big oval shaped body. Because of their enormous size (length: about 10 feet; weight: between 800 to 1,200 pounds), they are not able to move at a fast speed. Manatees are not able to move at a rapid speed, therefore they do not need for their small fluke (tail) and flippers (forearms) to be used all the time. Their head is very small compared to the rest of their body. They have a wrinkled face, with whiskers (vibrissae) on their snout, closely located to their naris, or nostril (Manatee Anatomy Facts). During manatees reproduction season (Appendix C), the female manatees use their nipple located behind each of their flippers to nurse their young.
The behavior and eating habits of a manatee are different from many other mammals of the sea. Manatees are generally very lazy, and tend to eat and sleep most of the day. These marine mammals are different in that they are strictly herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants; consuming 10-15% of their body weight daily (Save the Manatee Club). Since manatees are mammals, they cannot stay underwater for an extended period...

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