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Manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and are believed to have evolved from a wading, plant-eating animal.

Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas — particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish.

Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily.

Because they are mammals, they must surface to breathe air. They may rest submerged at the bottom or just below the surface of the water, coming up to breathe on an average of every three to five minutes.

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