There is plenty of scientific evidence to suggest the manatee has been around for more than 60 million years.
Thanks to the technology we have today and the various fossils that have been located, it is believed these water
creatures were once land animals. They are believed to be closely related to elephants. However, due to conditions
on land they have to evolve in order to survive in the water.
Along with the manatees it is believed that the dugongs also evolved around the same period of time. These two
creatures do look very similar to each other. That is because genetically they are very closely related. This
information has been confirmed with scientific testing on DNA. Neither of these two mammals are related in any way
to other marine animals. Many people assume they are similar to seals and even whales due to their body designs but
that isn’t true.
There are three types of land animals believed to be closely connected to the early manatees. They are believed
to have evolved from elephants, they hyrax which looks like a gopher, and the aardvark. You may find it hard to
believe this but there has been significant testing and research to confirm it time and time again.
It is believed that for the manatee it was their bones that began to mutate and that is what allowed them to
evolve and to survive from the transition of land to water animals. You will note that their flippers are made up
of connected bones and that is part of the evolution process. When they walked on land they had appendages with
nails on each of them. These nails helped them with grabbing things while on land. Those nails are now part of
their flippers and serve the same purpose in the water.
There has been plenty of research done with the pelvic bones of the manatee. This has given researchers a great
deal of insight to the evolution process for them. What was noted is that one side weighed more than others. It is
believed that this played quite a significant role in evolution. This particular gene may be the key to what
allowed them to start the process of moving from land to water animals so many millions of years ago.
There are many others though that believe there is more to it than that. Further research still has to be done
to know for sure. It is hopeful that more fossils will be found that can shed some light on such pressing evolution
questions. It is also probable that technology will continue to advance. As that occurs we will have new ways of
extracting information from those remains.
What has continued to amaze researchers is the way that manatees are able to survive natural disasters in the
water. They don’t seem to be affected by hurricanes and other types of tropical storms. It isn’t really known how
they are able to do this. Some experts speculate that they are able to find shelter in the water. Others though
believe it has to do with their body structure and their high level of intelligence.
Sadly, all of their evolution efforts may have been in vain. There are some alarming statistics about the
manatee that need to be noted. For example the Florida Manatee is considered to be one of the most endangered of
all mammals in the USA. If significant changes aren’t made very soon the manatee is going to become extinct within
the next 100 years or less. That is a grim reality that all of us have the chance to change if we are willing to
stand up for the cause today.