Posted July 22, 2009on:
The West Indian Manatee, is the largest surviving member of the Sirenia mammal order which also includes Dugongs and Sea Cows. They live in the West Indies, normally in shallow coastal areas, but sometimes in rivers and estuaries.
Manatees grow up to 3 metres in length and weigh between 400 and 600kg. Full grown ones eat up to 30kg of sea grasses and plants every day.
The West Indian Manatee is surprisingly agile in water, and individuals have been seen doing rolls, somersaults, and even swimming upside-down. Manatees are not territorial and do not have complex predator avoidance behavior, as they have evolved in areas without natural predators.
You might be wondering where I am going with all this?
Well, a couple of days ago we went to the manatee pond in Georgetown’s central park. We’d heard that people sometimes fed the manatees, so I threw some grass into the pond. Soon we had about 10 manatees eating out of our hands!
Here are some pictures:
Apparently, the ‘mermaid myth’ originally comes from ancient Greece, where sailors saw manatees and thought that they were beautiful women. This is something that keeps cropping up through history. Sailors get pretty desperate after months at sea, I guess.
Christopher Columbus seems to have had better sense. He mentioned that ‘mermaids’ had been sighted several times on his trip to the new world, but noted in his log that these mermaids were not quite as beautiful as the sailors had told him.
I guess he didn’t like bald, fat girls with wrinkly skin and large moustaches.