Known as the gentle giants of the sea, manatees are not just fascinating to watch but also happen to be an essential part of our ecosystem. Although they are quite large and may seem intimidating, they pose no threat to other animals and mostly keep to themselves. Their importance to our waters goes far beyond them being a popular tourist sight, which is why protecting them is crucial for our ecosystem to thrive.
They keep local vegetation from becoming obstructive
Manatees are one of the only marine mammals that do not eat other animals and remain exclusively herbivorous. They spend most of their day feeding and grazing on seagrass and other aquatic plants, consuming more than 100 pounds of vegetation a day. Their enormous appetite helps ensure that there is no vegetation overgrowth, which prevents waterways from getting obstructed.
They fertilize their surroundings
It is no surprise that given their large size, these “sea-cows” thoroughly enjoy eating. They consume more than 65 species of floating and submerged aquatic plants along with grazing on the seagrass beds. This large amount of food consumption causes manatees to excrete digested plants in abundance, fertilizing their surrounding environments. This ensures that the water vegetation around them continues to thrive.
The devotion to their young ones is inspirational
Manatees are extremely devoted to ensuring the survival of their young ones. Manatee calves are born underwater but are not able to swim independently. The mothers guide their babies to the surface of the water to help them breathe soon after they are born. They continue to nurse them and support them until they learn to look after themselves and can swim on their own.
Their general health is an indicator of overall ecological well-being
As long as manatees remain healthy and playful, you can tell that the general marine life in the area is doing well. Manatees help ensure vegetative balance in ecosystems and control the mosquito population by limiting the vegetation growth. They do not harm any other organisms and play a crucial role in the nutrient cycle of their surrounding waters.
Their habitat makes them vulnerable to boat strikes
Manatees mostly feed on seagrass that grows in shallow waters, which basically means that most of their time spent grazing on their food is close to the surface. Living in warm coastal waters, these docile creatures are constantly finding themselves between a lot of boat traffic. Their size and slow movement doesn’t allow them to swim very fast when facing danger, thus leading them to collide with boats very often. These boat accidents are the leading cause of human-related deaths for the manatee population today. To ensure their survival and the overall wellbeing of the ecosystem, boaters are advised to remain alert when passing through areas where their population dwells.
Manatees happen to be a popular Daytona Beach attraction and can keep you entertained for hours with their playful maneuvers in the water. Next time you are in the region, book a boat cruise with The Manatee and allow these gentle giants to win your heart!