A manatee, sometimes called a sea cow, comes up for air at the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park in Homosassa, Florida.
Canon EOS Rebel XSi/450D, Canon 55-250 lens at 55 mm for each photo
From the Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park:
The park serves as a rehabilitation center and refuge for endangered West Indian manatees that have been orphaned or injured in the wild and also for manatees that have been born in captivity. The natural spring environment allows them an opportunity to re-acclimate themselves to a more natural environment before they are returned to the wild.
A large, seal-like body that tapers to a spatulate tail. Two forelimbs with three or four nails on each. Skin is thick and wrinkled with stiff whiskers on upper lip. Color: Gray or gray-brown. Size: Manatees can grow to 13 feet and weight over 3,000 pounds. Behavior: Gentle and slow moving. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and in travel. Often shy and reclusive. No system of defense and completely harmless. Sight: Depth perception may be limited. Can differentiate colors. Hearing: Manatees can hear very well despite the absence of external ear lobes. Communication: Manatees emit sounds that are within human auditory range. They make sounds such a squeaks and squeals when frightened, playing or communicating, particularly between a cow and its calf. Breathing: Nostrils are on the upper surface of the snout which close tightly like valves when submerged. Surfaces to breathe every few minutes depending upon amount of activity. Habitat: They can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas, particularly where seagrass beds flourish. Range: Within the United States, they are concentrated in Florida during the winter, but can be found in summer months as far west as Louisiana and as far north as Virginia and the Carolinas. The West Indian manatee can also be found in the coastal and inland waterways of Central and South America as far south as Recife, Brazil. Food Source: Aquatic plants. Manatees are completely herbivorous and can eat 10-15% of their body weight daily. History: Manatees are believed to have evolved from a wading, plant-eating animal, and share a common ancestor with the elephant. Problems: Human Related: boat / barge collisions, loss of habitat, crushing or drowning in flood gates, poaching, ingestion of fish hooks and monofilament line, entanglement in crab trap lines, pollution. Natural: Cold related, “red tide”. Legal Protection: Florida Manatee Sanctuary Act, 1978, U.S. Marine Mammal Act, 1972, U.S. Endangered Species Act, 1973