Manatees were once mistaken for mermaids by sailors.
The largest population of manatees is found in Florida, where approximately 2,000 individuals now live.
Most manatees have a pattern of scars on their backs or tails from collisions with boats. Scientists use these patterns to identify individuals. But these collisions can be fatal for the manatee. Besides boating accidents, manatees have been found crushed or drowned in flood-control gates and also suffer from pollution and habitat loss.
Survival: Manatees are thought to live 50 to 60 years in the wild.
Well known for their gentle, slow-moving nature, manatees have also been known to body surf or barrel roll when playing. They communicate by squealing under water to demonstrate fear, stress or excitement.
Manatees are herbivores and eat marine and freshwater plants. The average adult manatee weighs 1,500 to 1,800 pounds and measures ten to 12 feet in length.
Manatees can be found in the warm waters of shallow rivers, bays, estuaries and coastal waters. Rarely do individuals venture into waters that are below 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Manatees take up residence primarily in Florida's coastal waters during winter and migrate either as far north as the Carolinas or as far west as Louisiana during the summer months.
Manatees are found in Everglades National Park, FL; Biscayne National Park, FL; Canaveral National Seashore, FL.