Manatee Anatomy

Manatee Physical Characteristics

There is no denying that the manatee is a very unique mammal found in the water. Full grown they can weigh up to 1,200 pounds. They can also be up to 10 feet in length. Many people have the opinion that the manatee is very strangely put together. It seems out of proportion. For example it does have a large body but then very small eyes that are spaced far apart.

Many people compare the body of a manatee to that of a seal.

You will notice that the manatee has a prehensile which is the upper lip looking similar to the trunk of an elephant only shorter. This lip is extremely important to the manatee as they use it to get and consume food as well as for socializing and communicating with each other.

To help them digest all of those plants, they have a cecum. This is a type of digestive tract that leads to the large intestine. It is believed to be as large as that of a regular sized horse. The cecum is needed to help eliminate the bacteria that can be found in such food sources. Otherwise it can make any animal that consumes so much of it extremely ill.

While they manatee does have teeth, they don’t use them for eating. They have teeth that all look the same. That is they don’t have different types such as incisors or canine teeth like humans and other types of animals do. They usually only have 24 to 32 molars located in the back of the mouth, and can regrow them as they need to throughout their life span.

Physical Characteristics of Manatees
Manatee skin

You will notice that the manatee has a very small tail. This is to help it navigate in the water.  The only way to really tell a male and female manatee from each other is to look at the genital area. The males have theirs below the belly button while the females have theirs above the anus. The tail is one of the most powerful parts of the body on a manatee.

The skin of a manatee is very thick and it is wrinkled, similar to that of an elephant. This is why many people often mistake young manatees for older ones. They assume the wrinkled skin is a sign of aging but it is simply part of their overall anatomy. Many assume that the large sized manatee has blubber like seals and whales. However, the big round part of the body is the stomach and the digestive tract for the plants they eat. Their large intestine can be up to 147 feet in length.

All manatees have whiskers on their faces, and they are believed to help them with sensory due to the vibrations. These whiskers are very sensitive and researchers believe that they help with various types of brain functions as well including memory and decision making.

The flippers on the manatee are very valuable to them. In fact, should they get injured in this location it is going to be very difficult for them to survive. The flipper has jointed bones in it that help the manatee accomplish a variety of movements. They rely on it to move in the water, to grab food, and to hold onto things. Each flipper has several sharp nails that allow them to easily grab.

One of the downfalls of the anatomy of the manatee is that they can’t move their head by itself. They have to turn their entire body to see on the sides of them. Research has shown that they only have 6 vertebrates instead of 7 and that is why they don’t have free range of movement with their heads.

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