12 Manatee Facts You May Not Know | Discover Crystal River | Discover Crystal River
manatees in clear water

12 Manatee Facts You May Not Know

Do you know what manatees eat or how fast they can swim? Learn all about manatees with these 12 surprising facts and details.

Manatees are a truly unique species to observe and we are lucky to have these gentle giants swimming through our waterways in Citrus County, Florida. Learn more about one of the world’s most majestic sea creatures with these twelve interesting manatee facts below:

1. We’re The Manatee Capital of The World

Citrus County is known as the “Manatee Capital of the World,” and it is one of the only places in Florida where you can swim with manatees! Our local guides are knowledgeable about how to respectfully and carefully share the water with these inspiring creatures.

2. There Are Three Different Species

There are three main species of manatees, including West Indian, West African, and Amazonian. The manatees found in Florida’s waterways are West Indian.

3. Manatees Love Warm Water

Manatees cannot survive in water temperatures below 60 degrees, that is why they migrate from the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico to natural springs in Florida during the winter months.

swimming with the manatees
three sisters springs manatees

4. Manatees Are Known As “Sea Cows”

Manatees are also known as “Sea Cows” because they move slowly, are very peaceful, eat only plants, and their babies are called “calves.”

5. Manatees Descended from Land Mammals

Manatees are thought to have evolved from four-legged mammals. Their closest relatives are actually elephants!

6. Manatees Are As Heavy As A Grand Piano

Grand pianos weigh-in at about 900 pounds and by comparison, manatees weigh between 800 and 1,200 pounds. At birth, manatees weigh around 66 pounds.

7. Is It A Manatee or Mermaid?

The idea of a half-human half-sea creature had been circulating for thousands of years among ancient civilizations. When sailing to North America, Christopher Columbus is reported to have seen a female form in the water. He thought it was a mermaid, but in reality, it was a manatee surfacing.

8. Manatees Like to Eat!

Manatees eat about 10 to 15 percent of their body weight each day. It takes them about 7 hours per day to graze on food.

9. Manatees Only Breath Every Few Minutes

These creatures are very solitary and spend about half of their day sleeping submerged. When resting, they only come up for air about every 20 minutes. When active, they will surface for air every three to five minutes. A manatee’s single breath can replace up to 90 percent of the air in its lungs. By comparison, one breath will only replace about 10 percent of the air in a human’s lungs.

10. Manatees Are Slow Movers

Manatees generally swim at a rate of 3 to 5 mph. By comparison, a Roomba vacuum cleaner tops out at speeds of 3.8 mph. Manatees can use their tails to swim in bursts of up to 15 mph too.

11. Manatees Are Protected By Law

There are fewer than 6,000 manatees in the world. In 2016, due to improvements in their population health, manatees were updated from “endangered” to “threatened.” Manatees are protected from being hunted or captured by U.S. law.

12. Manatees Communicate With Each Other

Manatees communicate using clicks, chirps, squeaks, squeals, and screams that are audible to humans. Even though they are known as “sea cows,” they do not moo.

If you’d like to meet and learn more about manatees while you’re here, then check out our guide to swimming with manatees in Crystal River. There are so many fun things to do in Citrus County, so start planning your getaway with us today!


Discover Crystal River
Official Guide to Crystal River in Citrus County, Florida