Thursday, 12 July 2012 By: Jenny Vu

#18 Manatee or Dugong?

I often get confused between Manatees and Dugongs. I have seen them at various zoos and aquariums and wonder why a creature is being called two different names when they look exactly the same? Well, today I'm going to fix up this mix up because, manatees and dugongs are different.

Dugong or Manatee? Find out by clicking the source link --> Source: wikipedia
So I've read that Manatees and dugongs are quite closely related, like cousins. So to be able to compare what's different and to be able to identify one from the other, I am going to write a list of 10 facts about each animal.

So Let's start with the Manatee. First a picture.
Source: wikipedia
  1. Part of the family: Trichechidae,  from the order: Sirenia
  2. There are only three living species in the family Trichechidae
  3. They have Paddle like flippers.
  4. They have a large, flexible upper lip that can be used to grasp or hold objects. They use the lip to gather food and eat, as well as using it for social interactions and communications.
  5. The three species of manatees are distributed in the Amazon, the West Indies and West Africa. (coloured areas in map below).
Source: wikipedia
     6. It's tail is paddled shaped like a ping-pong bat.
     7. They are herbivores.
     8. They can measure up to 4m (13 feet) long and weigh up to 590kg (1,300 pounds).
     9. They have small, widely spaced eyes and their eyelids close in a circular manner.
   10. The adults have no incisor or canine teeth but have a set of cheek teeth that are similar to molars or premolars and these teeth are continuously replace throughout life. This is unique to the species of the order Sirenia.

Now the Dugong.

  1. The Dugong is the last living species of the family Dugongidae of the order Sirenia.
  2. They also have paddle like flippers
  3. They have a muscular, horseshoe shaped upper lip, which aids with foraging for food.
  4. Dugongs live in tropical and subtropical waters around the world (areas coloured blue on the map below).
  5. It's tail is fluked shaped like a dolphin's tail.
Source: wikipedia
     6. They are herbivores.
     7. Adults are not expected to grow more than 3 metres long (9.8ft) and weigh 420kg (926lb).
         Females are usually bigger than males
     8. They have a mixture of incisors, canines and molars on their upper and lower jaws.
         Dugong's have two incisors (tusks) that emerge when males reach puberty.
     9. They have a uniquely shaped skull.
   10. The Dugong's conservation status is vulnerable.

So how can we easily distinguish between manatees and dugongs when we see them? By their tail! As you can see in the photos, manatees have a paddled shaped tail (like a ping-pong bat) and dugongs have a fluked tail (like a dolphin). But, if you didn't know this, then how could you tell?

Please comment and tell me what you've learnt from this post.

If you want to read more about manatees and dugongs, click on the following links.


Anonymous said...

hehe paddle tail!

I like this post

Anonymous said...

Yes, I can tell the difference now!
And I know where their living.
Thanks you for your effort!

business broadband said...

Only the tail can be helpful to differentiate them otherwise they are more or less same!!

Jenny Vu said...

Pretty much!

Anonymous said...

If you want to differentiate them from the front, take a close look at the "faces". The Dugong has much longer lips and so the face of the Manatee looks much more round.

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