Image credit: Kelly Hayes

A couple visiting Ellie Schiller Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Florida had the delightful opportunity to feed floating slices of sweet potato to the resident manatees. These gentle giants are herbivorous and have a diverse diet that includes submerged, emergent, floating, and shoreline vegetation. They happily munch on both freshwater and saltwater (marine) plants, such as turtle grass, manatee grass, shoal grass, mangrove leaves, various algae, water hyacinth, acorns, and hydrilla.

Manatees are impressive creatures. They can grow up to 4.0 meters long and weigh as much as 590 kilograms. Their distinctive paddle-like tails help them navigate their aquatic habitats. These fascinating mammals inhabit the shallow, marshy coastal areas and rivers of several regions, including the Caribbean Sea, the Gulf of Mexico, the Amazon basin, and West Africa.

Unfortunately, manatees face significant threats. Human-related issues are the leading cause of their mortality. Habitat destruction and collisions with human objects—particularly propeller-driven boats and ships—pose serious risks. Some manatees bear over 50 scars from propeller blades due to these collisions. Additionally, natural causes of death include adverse temperatures, predation by crocodiles (especially on young manatees), and diseases.

Text credit: Earth Unreal

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