Monday, February 13, 2006

Animal of the Week February 13, 2006 -- Freddy, Julia, and the Manatees

Yeah! Spring break! Me and Julia Stiles and Freddie Prinze Jr are heading off to Florida to drink sugary cocktails and spew on old people. Then we're going to find an ugly girl-boffin, take off her glasses, and cut her hair so that she is suddenly beautiful, and the school jock (Freddie) is going to fall in love with her while Julia is going to wave her hands in the air in her trademark way. Well, that's not going to happen, but if any film producers are reading this, you've got my email. But I am going to Florida, and by this time next week (when because I am on spring break there won't be an AOTW) I hope to have seen this week's animal Trichechus manatus (West Indian manatee).

Manatees are ace -- there are three species, the Amazonian, the West African, and the West Indian. Along with their relatives dugongs, manatees are the only living mammals in the group sirenia, their next closest living relatives are, perhaps rather surprisingly, elephants! West Indian manatees live in marine and fresh water around the Caribbean and gulf of Mexico. Growing upto 4.5 m in length and weighing up to 1500 kg, manatees are impressive animals. Lounging around in shallow waters they graze on water grasses and other plants. Their coarse diet wears their teeth down, and, like elephants, teeth are replaced throughout their life.

Desipte belonging to the order sirenia, a name that suggests some form of tantalising maidenlike appearence, manatees are not generally considered to be the most handsome of animals. However, there is a theory that manatees and dugongs hanging around harbours were the origins of mermaid myths; again like elephants, they suckle their young at teats near their forelimbs rather than on their bellies, so perhaps this human-like trait helped.

I'll be back with you in a couple of weeks, until then, play safe.

Thanks for continued feedback, the innovation of what I like to call paragraphs resulted from the constructive comment of one reader. If you'd like to see any changes let me know.


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