Sea Cow Showdown: The Difference Between Manatees and Dugongs
It’s a problem as old as time: can you tell the difference between manatees and dugongs, two of the most majestic animals within the sea cow family? While these two similar-looking creatures might have a few things in common, there are many significant differences that set them apart. As such, let’s dive into this ‘sea cow showdown’ and get to the bottom of what truly sets manatees and dugongs apart.
Where in the World Can I Find Manatees and Dugongs?
The first differences between the two sea cows lie in their respective regions. For example, manatees can be found in certain coastal areas around the world, including parts of the United States, Mexico, Central America, and South America. On the other hand, dugongs are limited to coastal areas in the Indo-West Pacific, including Australia, New Guinea, the Philippines, India, China, and Japan.
A Tale of Two Tails
The second difference between these amazing sea cows lies in their tails. Manatees have flat and paddle-shaped tails, not unlike those of a beaver, which makes them well-suited for paddling through the water. Dugongs, on the other hand, have large, round tails that make them excellent swimmers. This means that manatees are far better suited to slow-moving coastal areas, while dugongs have an edge when it comes to faster and deeper waters.
Grass and Sharks, Oh My!
Another difference between these two iconic creatures lies in their respective diets. Manatees, much like cows on land, are mostly herbivores and feed on a variety of shoreline-based plants, including seagrasses and manatee grass. Dugongs, however, are omnivores and will supplement their vegetable diet with the occasional fish, invertebrate, or even sea turtle.
Speaking of predators, both the manatee and the dugong are vulnerable to sharks and other large predators in their respective regions. However, manatees have additional worries such as boat traffic and fishing gear, while dugongs must also weather ever-increasing human activity, much of which leads to the destruction of their seagrass-feeding grounds.
The Lovely Lifestyle of Manatees and Dugongs
The final differences between these two sea cows lie in their respective lifestyles, the most obvious of which is that the manatee is a mostly solitary creature, while the dugong tends to hang around with its own kind in larger social groups.
Manatees are also more likely to stay in one area, while dugongs take more of a nomadic approach and will travel far and wide in search of food. In addition, manatees tend to be active both day and night, while dugongs are more active during the daytime.
Wrapping Up the Sea Cow Showdown
So, at the end of this sea cow showdown, what have we learned? Well, despite the many similarities—such as their graceful movement and loving personalities—manatees and dugongs have some very distinct differences that set them apart. Everything from where they live, their diet, their tails, and their lifestyle create a unique gap between these two awe-inspiring marine mammals.
We hope that this article has been a great resource in helping you tell the difference between these two incredible creatures. So, the next time you’re at the beach, keep an eye out for manatees and dugongs, both of whom are sure to bring a smile to your face.
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