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Truths about the Manatee

You may think the "sea cow," which the Indians called the Manatee, looks like a walrus. Actually, it's more closely related to the elephant. The Manatee is of the classification of Sirenia. This word has been associated with sirens or mermaids, which Christopher Columbus made mention of during his ventures to the New World. He said he didn't think these mermaids (Manatees) were as handsome as he had expected.

The skin of the Manatee is rough, wrinkled and has bristly hair over parts of its body. Many whisker hairs grow around their upper lip, which help them to sense what's around them. The Manatee has a wide, paddle-shaped tail and two front flippers. The flippers gather huge amounts of plant vegetation, which they spend 6 to 8 hours a day eating. Their eyes are small, but they can distinguish colors, shapes, and patterns.

Florida Manatees are warm-blooded mammals and seek water temperatures that do not fall below 65 degrees. Warm springs and power plants along the Florida coast are popular with the Manatees during the winter months. They live in bodies of water in coastal area; both salt and fresh water is crucial to their existence.

The Manatee is an endangered species, due partly to its low reproductive rate. It is gentle in nature, it is curious, and it has lost its habitat. A lot of study has been done concerning these "gentle giants." The South Florida Museum and Manatee Aquarium in Bradenton is the center for much of this research due to its famous resident, Snooty. Snooty, is the oldest living manatee in captivity, and he will be celebrating his fifty-fourth birthday on July 21, 2002. Every year a birthday party is held for this beloved Manatee.

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