Do you love manatees? Well, then you've come to the right place.
This fascinating creature has long been beloved for its large stature and friendly demeanor. And over the years, it has received the funny nickname "the sea cow." But the question remains, are manatees and sea cows exactly the same?
Keep reading to find out and learn some interesting manatee facts along the way.
What Are Sea Cows?
Today, you can use the term "sea cow" interchangeably with the word manatee. And while there are different types of manatees, a "sea cow" can describe the general species. So in this regard, they are the same thing!
But as it turns out, the sea cow used to be a different animal that has since gone extinct. And it didn't take long, as the first sea cow was discovered in 1741 and the last in 1768. It was referred to as "Steller's sea cow" and was a relative of the manatee and the dugong.
The sea cow went extinct partly due to hunting, but it was also a byproduct of ecosystem destruction. During this time, Russians and Aleuts hunted otters for fur and meat, which fed on sea urchins. But once the otters were gone, the ocean was overrun with kelp-eating urchins, leaving the sea cows with no food.
The sea cow was sadly one of the first animals that proved extinction was possible and that the supply of ocean creatures was not limitless.
Sea Cows vs. Manatees
The sea cow was found in Arctic waters, whereas the manatee only inhabits warm waters near Florida, Brazil, the Amazon, and the African West coast.
To survive in this chilly water, the sea cow had a thick coat and a large build. It could grow up to 30 ft long and weigh around 22,000 lbs. For perspective, the manatee ranges anywhere from 8 ft to 13 ft and can get up to 1,300 lbs.
And like the sea cow, the modern-day manatee is facing many threats. The International Union for Conservation of Nature has even put manatees on the Red List, meaning they are vulnerable to extinction.
Why Are Manatees Called Sea Cows?
As stated previously, modern-day manatees are still referred to as sea cows! They received this nickname because of their slow movements and love of grass grazing. However, they are actually more closely related to elephants, if you can believe it.
In fact, manatees, elephants, woolly mammoths, and mastodons all evolved from a common ancestor. And while no one knows much about this evolution, their ancestor was likely a four-legged mammal who could wade.
And while elephants and manatees may not look very similar, they both have thick, wrinkly skin lined with small hairs. And some modern-day manatees still have rudimentary toenails, which were once claws ideal for land-dwelling.
Did You Enjoy Those Manatee Facts?
Who knew sea cows were so amazing? And while the history of the original sea cow may be grim, it can teach the world a lot about ocean conservation. So to keep the manatee you know alive and well, go ahead and share these manatee facts with others!
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