Here's Looking at You Kid - Meet a Florida Manatee
In 1493 Christopher Columbus possibly mistook these gentle giants for mermaids. But, they are actually a large plant-eating slow moving aquatic mammal.
Short front flippers help them steer or even crawl through shallow waters and strong paddle-shaped tails propel them. A distant relative of the elephant they have thick, wrinkled skin that is grey or brown in color. An average adult is about 10 feet long and weighs between 1,500 and 2,200 pounds with a life expectancy of about 50-60 years.
The major threats to manatee survival are human activities: boat-related injuries and deaths, habitat loss or degradation, and in some countries, hunting.
USGS works in partnership with other Federal and State agencies and private organizations to study manatee life history, behavior, ecology, and population biology.
For more information on USGS studies on manatees, including the West Indian manatee and the Florida manatee, see: fl.biology.usgs.gov/Manatees/manatees.html and fl.biology.usgs.gov/pdf/crystal_river_handout.pdf
Photo credit: Robert Bonde, USGS