Two manatees, Crystal River, Florida, USA
© Gregory Sweeney/Getty Image
Manatees in Crystal River, Florida, USA
Given their sweet and friendly nature, it’s pretty hard not to love sweet and gentle manatees. These mammals slowly graze through rivers and coastal waters for up to seven hours a day, consuming 10 - 15 percent of their body weight. They do have teeth, but fear not, all of them are flat molars used for grinding up aquatic plants. Throughout their lives they grow new teeth at the back of their mouth which then move forward, replacing the older ones. Manatees are curious and interested in hanging out with humans, but our presence puts them at risk of accidental contact with boats and manmade structures. Their numbers in the US have dwindled to a few hundred in the 1970s, but through conservation efforts they’ve grown back to over 6,000. Protecting our vulnerable wildlife is crucial if we want to be able to appreciate them for years to come.