|Species|| T. inunguis|
Manatees are aquatic mammals of the family Trichechidae, comprising three of the five species of the order Sirenia, of which the dugong and the extinct Steller's sea cow are the other two. The name comes from the Taino manatí, a native Carib word meaning "breast," and may have possibly influenced early Spanish explorers as an explantion for mermaid sightings.
Manatees have large, seal-shaped bodies with paired flippers and a round, spoon-shaped tail, unlike their close relatives, dugongs, which have notched flukes similar to whales. They are typically grey in color (color can range from black to light brown) and occasionally spotted with barnacles or colored by patches of green or red algae. The muzzle is heavily whiskered and coarse, single hairs are sparsely distributed throughout the body. Adult manatees are about nine feet long on average, and weigh about 1,000 pounds. At birth, calves are between three and four feet long and weigh from 40 to 60 pounds.
Manatees are found in subtropical and tropical marine, estuarine, and freshwater environments of North and South America, the Caribbean Sea, and central Africa. The West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, includes two distinct subspecies, the Florida manatee (T.m. latirostris) and the Antillean, or Caribbean manatee (T.m. manatus). Of these two, the Florida manatee is found along the Florida coastline and the rivers within the state; occasionally individual manatees have been known to "wander" along the Gulf of Mexico coastline as far west as Texas, or as far north along the Atlantic Ocean coastline as Massachusetts.
The Amazonian manatee (T. inunguis) is found within the Amazon and Orinoco rivers of South America. The West African manatee (T. senegalensis) is found within the Congo and Senegal river watersheds.