The Loneliest Mammal
by: Davis Yancy Clegg
When you come to join Amelia River Cruises for a tour through the history filled Sea Islands and shores, the tour sometimes starts before you get on the boat. It is fairly often that manatees in Florida will make an appearance at the marina downtown. When they are born they can be 30 kg. To put it another way, they get big! These guys are generally solitary and choose to kick it solo, for the most part. On many days at the marina, you will see them playing amongst the pilings ‘neath the cafe’.
The docile manatee appears to be a bit sluggish. While they’re cruising locomotion is at most 5 mph, they have been known to gas it up to 20 mph in bursts! The particular species you will find here is one that lives to be upwards of 60 years in age. Manatees typically breed every 2 years throughout their life. A single calf will be born and stays with the parents for about 2 years before going out on its own.
Similar to dolphins, manatees are quite capable of associative learning. They have an excellent long-term memory and rely on sounds to communicate with one another. They also possess the ability to experience taste, touch, sight, smell, and sound as well.
Growing to upwards of 1200 lbs, these guys aren’t the smallest thing in the water. It takes many plants and such to keep the herbivore fed. So how do they get their grub on? A manatee will go down to the bottom and scour the ocean floor. They use their flippers to walk along and to navigate the plants they dig up towards their lips. The manatee have prehensile lips (the upper lip pad is split into left and right sides that can move independently of one another) to more efficiently gather food.
The Manatees you see in this area are West Indian manatees. West Indian Manatees are not cut out for life in the frigid waters. They rely heavily on warm, spring-fed rivers to survive in the winter. Power plants along the coast of Florida provide excellent shelter from the winter cold. If you are in Citrus County in the winter months, there are an estimated 400+ manatees that gather there every year! They are choosy of where they migrate since Florida manatees need access to fresh water areas to be able to regulate their body’s water and salt content.
We are certainly glad here in Northeast Florida to be one of the areas where Manatees can survive. We enjoy their presence every year and every time we spot them.
During this Holiday Season we are especially thankful for our families, friends and all our guests that make it possible for us to do what we do! We too, look forward to having all our guests back, year after year!
Have a very Happy and enjoyable Holiday Season! We look forward to seeing you on the boat.