Sirenians or sea cows include manatees and dugongs. Today only four species of Sirenians exist including the Amazonia Manatee, West Indian Manatee, West African Manatee, and dugongs. Dugongs are a slightly different member of the Dugongidae group that once included Stellar’s Sea Cow, which was hunted to extinction in the 1800’s.
Smithsonian scientists have concluded through fossil records that 50 million years ago it was common to find three or more of each species in every region of the world, according to Science Daily. Their research suggests that environmental and food sources have changed since then.
These 1,300 pound herbivores have a diet made up entirely of sea grass and scientific research has shown that each species feasted on a different kind of sea grass so as to avoid competition. That’s why they could successfully exist in the same regions. Today with far fewer types of sea grass, avoiding competition amongst sea cows is impossible, so the different species are spread out.
Manatees Have a Hard Road Ahead
And the species that do still exist have a hard road ahead. In Florida, scientists from the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission estimate that the 3,000 manatees occupy much of the same space as the 1 million registered boats and thousands of out-of-state vacationing boats. The consequences have been grim. In 2006, a near-record 86 manatees were killed while many more had their bones broken or skins sliced by errant propellers.
Now you can help these beauties escape this harsh reality. The Save the Manatee Club provides tons of information about this stunning species and offers everyone the opportunity to adopt a manatee to help these incredible animals survive.