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Treasure Coast Trivia Stories, Winter Edition

Manatees are on our minds but how much do you really know about them? Sure, they eat tons of sea grass and look a little like giant potatoes from the surface but here are some head-scratchers, answers and the stories behind them.


Florida’s Manatees are a sub-species of which of these?

a. Amazonian

b. West African

c. West Indian

Answer: C- Florida manatees are a subspecies of the West Indian Manatee. The West Indian manatee is characterized by its greyish or brownish skin, rounded tail, and a set of nails on its forelimbs. West Indian manatees are the largest sirenian, growing to 13 feet and 3,300 pounds. The West African manatee is found off the coast of western Africa. It is similar in size and appearance to the West Indian manatee but has a blunt snout. The Amazonian manatee is the smallest member of the manatee family. It grows to about 9 feet long and can weigh up to 1,100 pounds. This species has smooth skin. Its scientific species name, inunguis means "no nails," referring to the fact that this is the only manatee species that does not have nails on its forelimbs. The Amazonian manatee is a freshwater species, preferring the South American waters of the Amazon River Basin and its tributaries. It appears that West Indian manatees may visit this manatee in its freshwater habitat, though.


Manatees share this common condition with humans.

a. High cholesterol

b. Nearsightedness

c. Eczema

d. Hypertension

Answer: B- Manatees are nearsighted. They can see color in the blue, green, and gray spectrum, but not in red or blue-green combinations.


Their name is derived from the Carib word “manati” which means:

a. Elephant

b. Stone

c. Breast

d. Friend

Answer: C- The manatee’s name is derived the Carib term meaning "breast" or "udder." These docile creatures are also called sea cows. But manatees are more closely related to the elephant than they are to other marine animals. Each species of manatee is a member of the sirenius family, which shares a common ancestor with the elephant, aardvark and small gopher-like hyrax.


Most manatees live an average of 30-40 years but the world’s oldest documented lived to be:

a. 69

b. 59

c. 48

d. 39

Answer: A- Snooty, who was listed in the Guinness World Record 2017 Edition as the World’s Oldest Manatee in Cap-tivity died just shortly after his 69th birthday. Snooty was born on July 21, 1948, at the Miami Aquarium and Tackle Company. “Baby Snoots,” as he was then known, was brought to Bradenton as part of the 1949 Desoto Celebration and later that year he moved permanently to the South Florida Museum’s care. In 1979, he became Manatee County’s official mascot. During his lifetime, he greeted more than a million visitors. Zach, at 59, is the oldest known wild male, first documented in Oct. 1967 in the Crystal River area by USGS. He is sighted almost every year, and was last photographed during the 2017-2018 manatee season at Three Sisters Springs.


Manatees are monogamous and mate for life.

a. True

b. False

Answer: A- Female manatees (cows) reach sexual maturity in 3-5 years and males take 5-7 years. Gestation is approx-imately 13 months and usually one calf is born. The calf may stay with its mother for up to 2 years, but male manatees (bulls) are not part of the family unit. Bulls will leave a cow alone after her breeding period is over and move on to … umm, greener pastures.


Agile in the water, manatees can roll, do somersaults and swim upside down but they cannot do this:

a. Swim more than 5 miles per hour

b. Hear or make sounds

c. Stay under for more than 5 minutes

d. Turn their heads

Answer: D- Manatees have only six cervical (neck) vertebrae. Most other mammals have seven. As a result, manatees cannot turn their heads sideways; they must turn their whole body around to look around. Their ear openings, located just behind the eyes, are small and lack external lobes, but manatees can hear very well despite the absence of external ear lobes. While manatees typically move slowly, around 4-5 miles per hour, they are capable of swimming as fast as 15 miles per hour in short bursts. And though they normally surface an average of every 5 minutes or so, they can stay under for up to 20 minutes.


The structure of a manatee’s pectoral flipper is most similar to:

a. An elephant’s trunk

b. A human hand

c. A dolphin’s tail

d. A sea turtle’s forelimbs

Answer: B- The bones in a manatee's flipper look a lot like a human hand. The jointed "finger-like bones" of the flipper help the manatee move through the water, bring food to its mouth, and hold objects. Three or four nails are found at the end of each flipper and are in line with the “finger-like” bones inside the flipper.


Manatees communicate vocally

a. True

b. False

Answer: A- Manatees don't make very loud sounds, but they are vocal animals, with individual vocalizations. Manatees can make sounds to communicate fear or anger, in socializing, and to find each other (e.g., a calf looking for its mother). Manatees emit sounds underwater that are used in communicating with one another. These sounds can be described as chirps, whistles, or squeaks. It is not believed that they are used for navigational purposes. Vocalizations may express fear, anger, or sexual arousal. They are also used to maintain contact, especially when manatees are feeding or traveling in turbid water. Most common are vocalizations between mothers and calves.

Want to hear what a manatee sounds like? Check it out HERE!


Manatees contribute to the ecosystem in which ways:

a. Mosquito and weed control

b. Fertilization

c. Overgrowth control of vegetation

d. Indicators of ecological conditions

Answer: A, B, C, & D- Manatees’ biggest ecological contribution is recycling of various limiting nutrients, which promotes primary productivity. Their large body size means they are not only major consumers of aquatic vegetation, but also have huge influence on the structure and function of their environments. Manatee grazing is effective in mosquito and weed control, ensuring that waterways are not obstructed by overgrowth of vegetation. Manatees also serve as indicators of the ecological health of their habitats, as currently demonstrated by their precarious situation in the Indian River Lagoon.


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