Wednesday, February 29, 2012

West Indian Manatee

Life of Sea | West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) | The West Indian Manatee is a manatee, and the largest surviving member of the aquatic mammal order Sirenia (which also Dugong and the extinct Steller's Sea Cow covers). The West Indian Manatee is a kind of detached from the Amazonian Manatee and the West African manatee. Can be distinguished by special attention to the head shape (shorter and wider rostrum in the West Indies), body color (lighter, usually without white belly spots in the West Indies), skin texture (coarser in the West Indies) and the presence / absence of nails on the flippers (present in the West Indies).
West Indian manatees are plump, with broad back, and have for a long, flexible legs and rounded, paddle-like tail. The head is small, with no perceptible neck, and body showed many folds and fine wrinkles. The square, thick fleshy snout and mobile lips (with strong hairs on the upper lip) and two semi-circular nostrils at the front. Each has 3-4 fingernails at the end. The skin is very rough and thick, and has fine hairs sparsely distributed over the surface. The color of the skin is usually gray to brown, sometimes with green, red, white or black color is caused by algae and / or geese growth. The short hairs are colorless. Calves appear a darker shade of gray, almost black. There bicuspid post-canines/molars 5-7 pairs in each jaw. At the forward or lost teeth are worn, they are replaced from the rear. Females tend to be slightly larger than males.
Scientific classification
Kingdom:     Animalia
Phylum:     Chordata
Subphylum:     Vertebrata
Class:     Mammalia
Order:     Sirenia
Family:     Trichechidae
Genus:     Trichechus
Species:     T. manatus

West Indian manatees are found in the coastal marine, brackish and freshwater areas of the southeastern U.S. coast, tropical / subtropical Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic coast of northeastern South America. The West Indian Manatee is surprisingly agile in the water, and individuals are seen doing rolls, somersaults, and even swimming upside down. Manatees are not territorial and do not have complex predator avoidance behavior, as they have developed in areas without natural enemies. The common enemies of sea mammals such as orcas and large sharks are rarelyfound in habitats occupied by this species.
West Indian manatees are slow and lethargic, and may be very difficult to observe because they are generally only exposed the tip of the snout and possibly the upper back when they emerge.They are usually seen only or in groups of up to six. However, certain groups of feed count to about 20. These animals are herbivores, eating a wide variety of aquatic plants like water hyacinths and marine seagrasses. At times in some areas, they also eat algae, parts of mangrove trees, floating and shoreline vegetation, fish and even remove them from fishing nets.
The West Indian manatee has been hunted for hundreds of years for meat and hide, and is still hunted on this day in Central and South America. Illegal poaching, but also collisions with speeding motorboats, are a constant source of manatee deaths. Manmade threats include vessel collisions, incidental kills in fishing nets and lines, the disruption of the boat traffic and other human activities, entrapment in flood structures, pollution (especially from pesticides and herbicides in Central America), the inclusion of plastic waste, loss and degradation of habitat, and intimidation by ecotourists.

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