There are three known species of manatee in the world: West Indian, Amazonian and West African. The Florida Manatee is a subspecies of the West Indian variety. The West Indian species lives along the coasts and inland waters of the southeastern United States, eastern Mexico, the Greater Antilles, and Central America to as far as northern Brazil. It tends to be the largest of the three, weighing as much as 1,300 pounds. They are gentle, slow-moving creatures and the most well-known. The Amazonian manatee is more brown than gray and tends to be even more wrinkled than the other two species. They tend to hang out in the Amazonian basin. Of the three species, the West African manatee is the least well-known. The West Indian manatees are found throughout rivers, springs, and shallow coastal waters of Florida and nearby states, according to Florida Marine Guide. They’ve been seen as far west as Texas and as far north as Virginia. Florida is a popular spot for manatees because of the warm waters and they normally migrate back to the same spot in winter each year.

Compiled by Michael D. Bates. Sources: The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, Florida.; Marine Guide, Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.

MANATEE FAST FACTS

• live an average of 60 years.   • average size is 800 pounds to 1,200 pounds and 10 feet in length.  • are mammals, and so must surface to breathe air.

• seek out spring-fed waters in winter for protection from the cold.  • are generally vegetarians.  • sighted also in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina during the summer.

Source: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.