According to their migratory patterns, in which month do manatees typically return to Florida’s warmer shores after summering around the Northeast Coast?

And the answer: November.    
Photo credit: public domain.

In 1979, November was designated as Manatee Awareness Month by former Florida Governor Bob Graham to protect the manatees when they return to Florida for the winter. Designated manatee protection zones provide safe gathering spots where they can feed, rest, and give birth to their calves. Scientists are unsure what migratory cues manatees follow, but these sea mammals seem to know when temperatures are about to drop, and take refuge in warmer waters.

Across the coastal waters of North America, South America, and Africa, huge blubbery sea cows float around grazing on grass. While these massive, 1500-pound creatures may not be able to “moo” underwater like their four-legged cousins do on land—really, manatees are actually more closely related to elephants than they are cows, but that’s neither here nor there—they glide around at about 5 miles per hour chewing cud (so to speak) just about all day long, and have no natural predators. Somehow, that’s worked for them, as the species lineage has been around for nearly 45 million years and modern manatees for over a million.

Interestingly, manatees chew almost constantly, and as a result have some pretty interesting sets of teeth (yes, that’s plural). As manatees take in more than a tenth of their body weight in sea grass every single day, new rows of teeth grow to replace them. This means that manatees, like their elephant relatives, continuously replace their teeth throughout their lives, with the older teeth at the front falling out and new teeth growing in at the back of their mouth. I’d say it’s a bit creepy, if only they weren’t so darn cute…

Photo credit: Ahodges7.

Did you know?

November is Manatee Awareness Month! These gentle giants can live as long as 60 years, and need our help! Manatees face active threats to their habitats, diet, and way of life by fishing industries and water pollution. See how you can get involved in the effort to keep our oceans clean and nutrient-abundant for manatees here.


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