A gentle sea cow known as the manatee has recently been making some buzz after it was seen swimming north and just kept going. According to ABC 2, the large and slow-moving marine mammal was found swimming about in St. George Creek, a Potomac River tributary near Waldorf, Maryland.
Unlike Florida that is well-accustomed to manatee sightings, Maryland is a rather unusual place to find the creature, St. Pete Patch noted. But the National Aquarium explained warmed summer months normally urge these large animals to swim along the East Coast before returning to Florida in winter. Experts also suggested the marine mammal likely headed north from Florida to graze on Chesapeake Bay’s sea grasses.
A manatee sighting in Maryland is not as surprising as many would think. In fact, they will head back to Florida once the temperatures start to drop in September, Sentinel Republic revealed.
Meanwhile, here are 5 fun facts about these gentle manatees.
1. Manatees are herbivores that can munch on food for almost half a day. As per Smithsonian, they can be found in shallow coastal areas and rivers where they feed on grass, mangrove leaves and algae. Weighing up to 1,200 pounds, manatees are eating ten percent of their body weight in plant mass daily.
2. Manatees are protected under federal law by Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and the Endangered Species Act of 1973, Save the Manatee Club revealed. They are also listed as vulnerable by the World Conservation Union’s Red List of Threatened Species. Their vulnerability status is partly attributed to human activity, particularly powerful collisions, residential and commercial developments along rivers and waterways.
3. Despite being known as sea cows, manatees are more closely related to hyrax or the aquatic relative of elephants, Live Science has learned. While most animals have a heart that has a point, manatees and elephants have hearts that are rounded on the bottom.
They are also non-territorial so they often swim alone or in pairs. When manatees are seen in a group, it is either a mating herd or an informal meeting of the species simply sharing a warm area that has a large food supply. A group of manatees is called an aggregation and it usually never grows larger than about six individuals.
4. Manatee’s nose and nostrils are often the only thing visible from above the water’s surface. As per the National Geographic, manatees never leave the water but, like all marine mammals, they must breathe air at the surface.
A resting manatee can remain submerged for up to 15 minutes, but while swimming, it must surface every three or four minutes. With a single breath, manatees can replace 90 percent of the air in their lungs as compared to humans with only just 10 percent.
5. A manatee has a smooth brain and the smallest brain of all mammals in relation to its body mass. But that doesn’t mean they’re stupid. Mental Floss noted manatees are “as adept at experimental tasks as dolphins, though they are slower-moving and, having no taste for fish, more difficult to motivate.”
Manatees are also nearsighted and can see in blue, green and gray — but not red!