IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


3rd February, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240125-a-florida-state-park-reports-a-record-number-of-manatees-gathering-whats-behind-the-convergence 

Context: Experts are puzzled by the unprecedented gathering of nearly 1,000 manatees at Blue Spring State Park in Florida, as manatees are typically solitary animals.

Possible reasons for the unprecedented gathering of Manatees

  • Cold weather: Recent cold fronts have dropped water temperatures to dangerously low levels for manatees, who are sensitive to cold due to their low body fat. Blue Spring State Park's warm springs, at a constant 25°C (72°F), provide a refuge for them to escape the cold.
  • Food scarcity: Algae blooms have killed off large areas of seagrass, the manatees' main food source. This may be forcing them to search for alternative food sources or gather in areas with better food availability.
  • Safety: Blue Spring State Park prohibits recreational activities during winter months, creating a safe haven for manatees to rest and conserve energy. They may have learned this over time and are returning for protection.

It's likely a combination of these factors that is driving the large gathering. The cold weather may be the immediate trigger, but the lack of food and the availability of a safe haven are likely playing a role as well.

About Manatees

  • Manatees are known for their docile and friendly nature. They are slow-moving creatures, reaching speeds of only about 5 miles per hour. Despite their large size, they pose no threat to humans and are quite curious and playful.
  • There are three species of manatees: the West Indian manatee, the West African manatee, and the Amazonian manatee.
  • Manatees are found in the coastal waters of the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Manatees are primarily herbivores, feeding on a variety of seagrasses, algae, and other aquatic plants. They can consume up to 10% of their body weight in vegetation each day.
  • They often gather in groups to graze, rest, and socialize. They can live for up to 60 years.
  • Females give birth to single calves every 2-3 years, with calves nursing for up to 2 years.
  • Conservation Status: Vulnerable to endangered, all three species face threats, with habitat loss and boat strikes being major concerns.


Q. Which statement is incorrect about manatees?

A) They are intelligent and social animals.

B) They have poor eyesight but rely on touch and taste.

C) They can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes.

D) They are carnivores that hunt for fish and shellfish.

Answer: D


Manatees are fascinating aquatic mammals that belong to the order Sirenia. They are often called sea cows because they graze on seagrass and other aquatic plants. One of the statements given about manatees is incorrect. The correct answer is D) They are carnivores that hunt for fish and shellfish. Manatees are herbivores that do not eat any animal matter. They have a simple stomach and a large intestine that helps them digest the tough plant fibres. Manatees can consume up to 10% of their body weight in plants per day.