Of all the strange animals on this planet, the manatee is definitely one of the weirdest. Also called the "sea cow," these adorable creatures are closely related to elephants, but spend their days underwater in rivers and oceans.
Like dolphins and whales, they can't breathe underwater. Every 15 minutes or so they come up for air, and when they do they can really confuse people who have never heard of these odd creatures.
For centuries, sailors who spotted manatees thought they were mermaids. Even Christopher Columbus himself was fooled by these creatures, writing in his diary that he "distinctly saw three mermaids, which rose well out of the sea; but they are not so beautiful as they are said to be, for their faces had some masculine traits.”
While they start small, manatees can grow to be 13 feet long and weight 1,300 pounds.
Amazingly, they manage to get so big on a totally vegan diet - they only eat algae and underwater plants. But don't be fooled: they may look roly-poly, but most of their bodies are made up of an extra-large digestion system.
They may look cute, but resist the urge to jump into the water and hug these adorable animals. Manatees are an endangered species, and it's illegal to bother or harass them, especially because drunk tourists love to do this.
Instead you can admire them at marine parks or their natural habitats. Manatees make their home in the rainforests of South America, Florida, West Africa and the Caribbean.
While nobody hunts manatees anymore, they're still in danger of losing their homes for environmental reasons.
Lots of manatees are also injured in boating accidents. They swim at about 5 miles per hour, which makes them easy to bump into. In a pinch they can swim as fast as 15 miles an hour, but be safe and keep an eye out for these gentle giants!
Manatees are unique from other animals for lots of reasons, but their most embarrassing quirk is having the record for smallest brain to body size.
But that doesn't mean they're stupid! Manatees can tell colors apart and even learn simple tricks. Scientists say they're just hard to teach, because nothing motivates them!
Sorry, that's all the manatee facts we have for now. If you ever need an excuse to see more photos of these goofy sea cows just head to calmingmanatee.com
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