This is the sixth installment of 12 Things to Experience on an Everglades Airboat Tour which can also be downloaded as a free eBook.
Manatees are truly amazing creatures, which you may have the opportunity to see on your Everglades airboat tour. The manatee is Florida’s state marine mammal, and is a large aquatic relative of the elephant. Florida Manatees are grayish brown in color and have thick, wrinkled skin. Because of their size and the way they “graze” around, feeding on vegetation in the water, manatees are also fondly referred to as Sea Cows.
The front flippers of manatees help them steer or sometimes crawl through shallow water. They also have powerful flat tails that help propel them through the water. Despite their small eyes and lack of outer ears, manatees are thought to see and hear quite well. Manatees are large aquatic mammals, which means they are warm blooded, breathe air, don’t lay eggs, and nurse their young with milk.
Manatees also have a type of “hair”. Because fur gets heavy and cold when it is wet, manatees don’t need it. Instead, they have whiskers on their skin, as well as thick layers of fat to keep them warm. Here are some interesting facts about manatees:
- Manatees usually come to the surface every 3-4 minutes to breathe fresh air. They actually sleep on the bottom and will “float” up every 20 minutes for a breath.
- Adult manatees are about 10 feet long and can weigh between 1,500 – 1,800 pounds. They never stop growing as long as they live!
- Manatees have an average life span of 50-60 years in the wild.
- Manatees are herbivores; they eat marine and freshwater plants.
- The largest population of manatees is found in Florida, where there are over 3,000.
- Manatees like warm water. Rarely do they venture into waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Manatees are able to float, even though they are heavy, when their large lungs fill up with air. The amount of fat on their bodies helps their buoyancy as well.
- When manatees need to sink to the bottom for feeding, they are able to do this because of their bone structure. Most mammals’ long bones have space inside to make red blood cells, but manatee bones do not. They are solid and heavy, which helps the manatee sink to the vegetation-rich bottom of of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters.
- Manatees communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.
While manatees are in the area year round, they are more commonly seen in the backcountry during cooler times of year. When the water temperatures drop out in the Gulf of Mexico, they will often swim inland to find water that has been warmed by the Florida sun.
If you are ready to see the manatees in person come see us at Captain Jack’s Airboat Tours located in Everglades City. When you tour with Captain Jack’s, you’ll receive a FREE photo holding a baby alligator with your camera! If you would like to learn more about us or if you are ready to book your trip contact us online, call us toll free at 1-800-282-9194, or connect with Captain Jack’s on Facebook.
– Captain Jack