West Indian Manatee Facts
- The informative term of West Indian Manatee serves as the most frequently employed name for this marvel of Nature and evolution. It does have another, less often used title, though. That’s the equally informative term of North American Manatee.
- Among scientific professionals, however, it’s generally referred to by its technical moniker. Luckily for the layperson, that’s a comparatively simple to pronounce term. That’s because this marvelous mammal bears the formal title of Trichechus manatus.
- The magnificent animal received that relatively short title due to the efforts of Carl Linnaeus. The esteemed Swedish zoologist accomplished the first official recognition of it as a separate and distinct species. He managed this feat in the year 1758.
- No matter which of these various names one uses, though, it remains a remarkable species. That’s partly due to the fact that it’s the largest known member of its Order, the Sirenians. Two acknowledged subspecies of the animal also remain extant.
- Presently, the population base of the West Indian Manatee continues to rebound, albeit slowly. That fortunate trend also appears to hold true throughout the entirety of its range. Prior to protective actions, the IUCN listed it as Endangered on its Red List.
- Due to a small but steady rise in numbers since those actions, it now lists as Vulnerable. The remarkable mammal nevertheless still faces numerous threats to its existence. These include such factors as habitat loss, and the looming danger of climate change.
West Indian Manatee Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The marvelous West Indian Manatee evolved as endemic to a moderately broad swathe of the marine waters of the world. The name itself provides at least some indication of a portion of that range. It lives in a specific yet restricted portion of the Atlantic Ocean.
As that title implies, the creture seems to be primarily, though not wholly, endemic to the West Indies. Its full range, however, extends from the east coast of the United States to the northeastern tip of South America. It’s currently unknown if it ever lived anywhere else.
The animal further seems to be highly evolved in terms of habitat preferences. Generally, it resides almost exclusively in shallow areas along various coasts. Despite its being a creature of the seas, it also displays a remarkable adaptability in terms of where it appears.
That’s because the animal possesses the ability to handle changes in salinity very well. Thus, the intrepid explore often ventures into areas of fresh water. These include such surprising regions as shallow rivers and estuaries. One once ventured into a river in Tennessee!
As a general principle, the gorgeous West Indian Manatee lives a primarily solitary life. Usually, groups only form during mating season. Sometimes, thouh, such groups come together, apparently coincidentally, in warmer waters during the winter season.
It feeds mainly as a herbivore. In doing so, it consumes over 60 varieties of aquatic plants, and a few small fish and invertebrates. These include both marine and freshwater species. It itself has few known natural predators. These consist of orcas, large sharks, and alligators.