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Manatees (Trichechus manatus, senegalensis, or inunguis) are thought to have given rise to the mermaid legends of sailors, hence their Order name of Sirenia. The other two members of this Order are the Dugong and the Stellar's Sea Cow (extinct since 1768). It is possible Stephen saw a manatee in The Mauritius Command.



Trichechus manatus or the West Indian manatee is found in waters surrounding coastal Florida south to Brazil.

Trichechus senegalensis or the West African manatee is found in waters near western Africa. This is a rarely seen member of the species and little is known about it.

Trichechus inunguis or the Amazonian manatee is the smallest of the manatees and found in freshwater lakes and streams through-out the Amazonian basin.

While the Amazonian manatee is the only exclusively freshwater member of the species, the other two are found in shallow estuaries and coastal canals rather than deeper ocean waters.

Behavior and diet

Manatees are gentle, solitary, slow moving animals. They are migratory and spend their days eating, sleeping or swimming.

All three members of the manatee family are herbivores, eating aquatic plants, algae, and occasionally invertebrate crustaceans.


Manatees can live to about sixty years in the wild having no natural enemies and reach breeding age after five years for females and nine years for males. Gestation is roughly a year resulting is a single calf, twins are very rare.


Manatees and Dugongs Retrieved Aug 2005

Save the Manatee Club Retrieved Aug 2005

Sea World Retrieved Aug 2005

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