Manatees are large mammals that are also referred to as sea cows. Despite their massive bodies, these giant creatures are great swimmers.
Manatees are mostly herbivores. Their diet mainly consists of seagrasses found on the seafloor, plant leaves, and plant roots. Some manatees (the African manatees) are omnivorous, whose diet entails meat drawn from fish and mollusks, in addition to their plant diet.
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What Do Manatees Eat in the Ocean?
|Type of Manatee||Binomial Name||Diet|
|The West Indian Manatee||Trichechus manatus||Seagrasses, leaves, and plant roots.|
|The Amazonian Manatee||Trichechus inunguis||Hyacinth and water lettuce.|
|The African Manatee||Trichechus senegalensis||About 70 plant species, fish, and a wide array of estuarine mollusks.|
Types of Manatees and their Habitats
Manatees are classified under the family Trichechidae. Under this family, there is the genus Trichechus, which constitutes of the three species of manatees. Insight into these three species is provided below.
What Do West Indian Manatees Eat?
The West Indian manatee can grow to lengths of about 3 meters. Some members of this species can grow to 4.5 meters length, including the tail.
- The West Indian manatees mainly feed on seagrasses that grow on the seafloor, leaves, or plant roots.
- The West Indian manatees average between 200 and 600 kilograms, with the biggest species being recorded to weigh about 1.5 tons.
- As the name suggests, the West Indian manatee will commonly be found in the Caribbean.
- This species often inhabits clear or muddy waters of shallow rivers, coastal regions, estuaries, canals, or salty water bays.
What Do Amazonian Manatees Eat?
The Amazonian manatee is also dubbed as the South American manatee. This species can be found on the mouth of the Amazon river.
- The Amazonian manatee is exclusively herbivorous. Its diet primarily consists of hyacinth and water lettuce.
- Additionally, manatees extend further to the tributaries of the Amazon river.
- This aquatic mammal inhabits swamps, rivers, and other wetlands of the Amazon River Basin.
What Do African Manatees Eat?
The African manatee is also referred to as the West African manatee. This is because it is mostly found on the coastline of the West African region of Africa.
- The African manatee mainly feeds on vegetation found in water. About 70 plant species are considered to be vital food sources for these manatees.
- The African manatees have also been documented to feed on fish and a wide array of estuarine mollusks.
- Some of the countries where this species can be spotted include but are not limited to Liberia, Guinea-Bissau, Senegal, Angola, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Nigeria, and Ivory Coast.
- The main habitats where this species can be found include lagoons, river tributaries, estuaries, and marine coastal waters.
- The West African manatee prefers habitats with waters whose temperatures are 18°C and over.
How Do Manatees Hunt?
The African manatees have been documented to capture fish and mollusks trapped in fishing nets.
When Do Manatees Eat?
Manatees do not strictly display nocturnal or diurnal tendencies; on the contrary, these aquatic mammals can feed at any time of the day. Manatees can spend between 6 and 8 hours a day eating.
How Often Do Manatees Eat?
Manatees can spend between 6 and 8 hours a day feeding.
- The rest of the day may include engaging in activities such as playing, sleeping, resting, or traveling.
- Manatees have a prolonged metabolism, which warrants consuming large amounts of food each day.
- These organisms can eat anything between 7 and 15% of their body weight every day.
What Eats Manatees?
Manatees do not have natural predators.
- Organisms like alligators, sharks, and crocodiles have been documented to hunt manatees. However, this is infrequent, considering they do not occupy the same waters.
- Man presents the greatest threat to manatees. Human beings have been noted to hunt manatees because of their meat, oil, and skin (known to have therapeutic capabilities).
Where Do Manatees Fit in the Animal Food Chain?
Manatees play an essential role in the animal food chain.
- These large aquatic creatures are, at times, captured by predators like alligators and sharks (though rare).
- As a result, they provide a source of nutrients to these organisms.
- Additionally, manatees offer a great source of protein to the humans who hunt them for their meat.
- Thanks to their occasional feeding of fish and mollusks like clams, African manatees help regulate these creatures’ local populations.
In general, the absence of manatees to the ecosystem as a result of threats from habitat loss and poaching would impair the overall integrity of the animal food chain.