One of the important animals that live along the Florida coast and in its rivers is the Florida manatee. Manatees are non-aggressive, non-territorial herbivores that spend most of their time feeding (6-8 hours a day) and resting (2-12 hours a day). The remainder of the day is spent traveling, investigating objects and interacting with other manatees.
Manatees do not have “biting” teeth, but they have only “grinding” teeth. All of their teeth are molars, which are constantly being replaced. New teeth come in at the back of their mouth and move forward about one centimeter a month. The tooth replacement is an adaptation of the manatee’s diet, which consumes marine plants that may also contain a lot of sand. Manatees can move each side of its lip independently, which allows it to grab the marine plants and draw them into their mouths.
Manatees are mammals, which means that the must come to the surface to breathe. The surface approximately every five minutes to breathe. However, they can hold their breath for as long as twenty minutes when resting. Manatees do not have eyelashes, however they have a nictitating membrane that closes over their eyes for protection. Manatees have a good sense of hearing even though they do not have external ear lobes. Manatees use their flippers and tail to steer itself through the water and moves its tail up and down to propel itself forward.
Track some of our released manatees at www.wildtracks.org