Dugongs vs. Manatees: Dugongs and manatees both are mammals from the same order, “Sirenia”. These animals have a large gray body and can be found in coastal, tropical and subtropical regions. But if we talk about dugongs Vs. manatees differences, both are different from each other in many ways. The main difference between Dugongs and manatees is their features like snout, teeth, and flippers. The snout of the dugong is larger, and dugongs also don’t have a nail on their flippers, unlike manatees.
Let’s take a closer look at Manatees vs. Dugongs
|Order||Both animals belong to the same order, “Serina.”|
|Size||Manatees can grow larger than Dugongs|
|Family||Dugongs belong to the Dugongidae family, while manatees belong to the Trichechide family.|
|Flippers||Dugongs don’t have nails on their flippers, but some species of manatees have them.|
Table of Contents
What Are Dugongs?
If we look at the dugong meaning: it is a marine mammal and the only sirenian present in this range. This mammal has a fusiform body with no hind limbs and dorsal fins but has paddle-like forelimbs. The fluked dolphin-like tail of dugongs makes them easily distinguish between manatees. Dugong also has unique teeth and skulls. Their teeth are simple and peg-like, unlike the elaborate dentition of the manatees. The snout of this mammal has adapted to be down so that it can easily feed in seagrass communities. Dugongs have been hunted on a large scale due to their meat and oil. Traditional hunting of this mammal still has cultural significance in various countries, including Pacific Islands and Northern Australia. Most of the population of this mammal is considered to be extinct due to this hunting.
What Are Manatees?
If we look at manatees meaning: it is a large, fully aquatic herbivore marine mammal, also known as sea cows. There are accepted three living species of this mammal, West Indian manatees, West African manatees, and Amazonian manatees. Manatees are larger and measure up to 4 meters in length and 590 kilograms in weight. These mammals are pure herbivores and depend upon freshwater and saltwater plants. Manatees are found in the marshy coastal area, shallow areas of West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Amazon basin. This mammal is close to extinction due to various reasons. The main reason behind many deaths of manatees is human-related issues, including human objects and habitat destruction by humans. Some manatees have more than 50 scars on their bodies from blades. There are some natural causes of their deaths as well. Like, as disease, adverse temperature, or predation by large crocodiles.
5 Key Differences Between Dugongs and Manatees
|Characteristics||When dugongs males hit puberty, they grow two tusks, which merge. Female dugongs also have tusks, but these do not merge. Scientists can estimate the age of dugongs from the growth of their tusks. They paddle like forelimbs and fluked dolphin-like tails. Their teeth are simple and peg-like, unlike the elaborate dentition of the manatees.||Unlike dugongs, there are not any tusks in manatees. Instead, they have gross cheek teeth, with an unclear distinction between molars and premolars. Manatees repeatedly replace their teeth over the course of their life. Their new teeth start to grow at the back of their mouth, and the previous old teeth start to be pushed out to the front.|
|Geographical Distribution||Dugongs are mostly found in the Indo-West Pacific, from the coasts of East Africa to the waters of Northern Australia. These mammals spend most of their lives in saltwater.||Manatees can be seen in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Amazon Basin. Manatees can live in both salt and freshwater. As they depend upon the plants for their food.|
|Snouts||The dugong has a longer snout than the manatees and resembles the nose of an aardvark. This long nose enables them to feed on the grass which grows on the seafloor.||The manatees have much shorter snouts as compared to the dugongs. Their snout is squashed-looking, and they have divided prehensile lips.|
|Dieting Feeding||Dugongs are mostly herbivores, but they also feed on octopus and squid sometimes. They use their long snout to find and feed on the seagrass.||Manatees are also herbivores, but when seagrass is unavailable, they feed on small fish. They use their flippers to dig seagrass.|
|Reproduction||Dugongs are monogamous and are loyal to their one mate. They only consider their new mate when their partner passes away. Female dugongs can reach sexual maturity at the age of 10.||Manatees are polygamous, and some of the males have multiple female mates at the same time. Female manatees reach their maturity at an earlier age than dugongs.|
Dugongs vs. Manatees Similarities
- Whether it is dugongs or manatees, both are mammals which live long lives of almost 60-70 years.
- Both mammals are good free divers and can hold their breath under the water for almost 20 minutes when necessary.
Dugongs vs. Manatees Examples
- Persian Gulf Dugongs
- Northern Pacific Dugongs
- Southern Pacific Dugongs
- West Indian Manatees
- West African Manatees
- Amazonian Manatees
Dugongs vs. Manatees Pros and Cons
Dugongs Pros and Cons
Pros of Dugongs
- Dugongs play an important role in maintaining the coastal ecosystem, as their constant browsing of seagrass increases regrowth.
- Dugongs have great social and economic value, providing food to the areas where a nourishing diet is essential but very expensive.
Cons of Dugongs
- Dugongs have very poor eyesight, making them vulnerable to predators like sharks and crocodiles.
- These mammals are very sensitive to illness, especially bacterial and viral infections.
Manatees Pros and Cons
Pros of Manatees:
- Ecological importance: Manatees are considered a keystone species because they play a vital role in the ecosystem. They help maintain the health of seagrass beds, which provide important habitats for many other marine species.
- Tourist attraction: Manatees are a popular tourist attraction, especially in areas where they are commonly found. Many people enjoy viewing and interacting with these gentle giants, which can help support local economies.
- Cultural significance: Manatees have cultural significance in many regions where they are found. For example, in West African folklore, the manatee is considered a symbol of femininity, fertility, and maternal protection.
Cons of Manatees:
- Habitat loss: One of the biggest threats facing manatees is habitat loss. As coastal development and human activities continue to expand, manatees lose critical habitats like seagrass beds and warm water springs.
- Boat collisions: Manatees are slow-moving and often come to the surface to breathe, making them vulnerable to collisions with boats and watercraft. These collisions can cause serious injuries and even death.
- Hunting and poaching: Historically, manatees have been hunted for their meat, hides, and bones. Although hunting is now illegal in most countries, poaching still occurs in some areas.
- Pollution: Manatees are susceptible to the effects of pollution, including oil spills, chemical contamination, and plastic debris. These pollutants can harm the manatees directly, as well as their habitats and food sources.
Dugongs and manatees are aquatic mammals found in shallow coastal regions. But these mammals are different from each other in many ways. The dugongs have a longer snout as compared to the manatees and resemble the nose of an aardvark. This long nose enables them to feed on the grass which grows on the seafloor. The manatees have much shorter snouts as compared to the dugongs. Their snout is squashed-looking, and they have divided prehensile lips. Dugong males hit puberty, and they grow two tusks, which merge. Female dugongs also have tusks, but these do not merge. Unlike dugongs, there are not any tusks in manatees. Instead, they have gross cheek teeth, with unclear distinctions between molars and premolars. And if we compare dugongs versus manatees’ size, manatees can grow larger than dugongs.