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MANATEES and DUGONGS

 
 
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 09:26 am
The order Sirenia contains these fat critters in 4 separate species . The reason Im posting is that the Indian(our Florida) Manatee migration season is just beginning and these critters will be under constant threat from boat props and predators. The Indian manatees begin migrating into the Gulf of Mexico to maintain living in warmer waters from now until about MArch, when they return to the brackish and fresh waters of the NE US (weve had sitings of them as far N as Cape Cod in the summers).

Genetically related to the hyrax and elephant these mostly vegetarian creatures are some of the neatest and rather endangered species on the planet. Anybody have any close contacts with these guys?
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Type: Discussion • Score: 10 • Views: 7,450 • Replies: 55
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roger
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 01:26 pm
@farmerman,
Just once, and I suppose people are tired of hearing about it.

We had one of those gatherings maybe in 2004 in Cocoa Beach, Fl, hosted by Rae and Misti. I just mentioned I would kind of like to see one, so Rae and her sun made a one day project of tracking one down. It was only after getting to pet it that we saw the sign prohibiting petting and feeding of Manatees.

The things seem totally innocent, and so ugly they're beautiful.
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 01:33 pm
@farmerman,
I adore manatees!

I've seen them a few times in the wild, in Florida. But my main contact with them is through the Columbus Zoo. They have a really cool rehab program, and a rotating cast of manatees in a nice exhibit.

Love watching 'em eat lettuce. Om nom nom.
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 01:38 pm
@farmerman,
No, but a friend from my italian class years ago spent time with them, did a bunch of research, and perhaps wrote an article or book. (I forget). She cared a lot about them even back then.
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:30 pm
@roger,
Thats always been a thing about them. They are so grotsque that theyre cool. We have some friends that always spend the winters in Fla and the guy keeps an open cockpit fishing boat. Weve seen them while trying to make our way out to the gulf. Usually we see em in "nowake" zones and its amazing how many people dont pay attention to the signs.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:31 pm
@sozobe,
So they have manatees in the Columbus Zoo? what do they do with em in the winter?
farmerman
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:32 pm
@ossobuco,
I hope she wasnt working on a cookbook. Manatee primavera. Smile
ossobuco
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:33 pm
@farmerman,
Snort! Nooooooooooo.
0 Replies
 
Ceili
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:36 pm
Sadly, I've never seen them in the wild, but I did swim with them in Mexico. Ok, ok... swim is probably over reaching it a wee bit, floated with them is more apt. I got to feed them some lettuce too. Lovely creatures.
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 02:45 pm
@farmerman,
It's an indoor exhibit, nice and humid and steamy, great for visiting in the dead of winter.

Evidently the roof retracts for the warmer parts of the summer though (I haven't seen that).

This shows some of the exhibit and also (as far as I can tell) explains the rescue efforts a bit.

farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 03:00 pm
@sozobe,
Im sure they didnt swim em up the Scioto. How did they haul em into Columbus?
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 03:10 pm
@farmerman,
Sure, they fireproof 'em first and then swim 'em up the Scioto.

(Or is the Olentangy that caught on fire? I'm still learning local lore.)

No.

I think they get here via airplane. About two hours, not that bad.

But I'm not sure about that.

Yeah, this says "flown":

http://seshippingnews.typepad.com/south_east_shipping_news/news-with-a-smile/
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 03:26 pm
@sozobe,
When manatees fly.

Now, what about dugongs? They occupy the Sunda sea and areas around Wallace's Line
Builder
 
  1  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 07:37 pm
@farmerman,
There's a little history plaque on a local pier that says a herd of sea-cow (dugong) was sighted here that was 8 kilometres long, and several metres wide.

Local indigenes are still permitted to eat them in some locales. I ate some when in the west Kimberley. Tastes exactly like pork.

Fishing methods, specifically otter-board trawling for prawns (shrimp), ruin the sea-grass beds that sustain dugong herds.
0 Replies
 
rosborne979
 
  2  
Reply Wed 16 Nov, 2011 08:46 pm
@farmerman,
Steller's Sea Cow must have been impressive and beautiful as well.

http://theseamonster.net/wp-content/uploads/folkens6.jpg

Here's an interesting story, the source for which can be found here: http://theseamonster.net/2011/07/stellers-sea-cow

John Bruno wrote:
I am in the Galapagos Islands reading The Unnatural History of the Sea by Callum Roberts. I often buy ocean gloom-n-doom non-fiction, read a chapter, then put it on my shelf. This one is different. Dr. Roberts is an academic marine ecologist based at the University of York in England. He is highly respected as a scientist for his work on tropical fish populations and communities and marine reserves. He is also a remarkably good writer – a rarity in science – and his breadth of knowledge of the oceans, ocean exploration, the history of fishing and cultural anthropology is remarkable. How does one person learn so much in one lifetime! In short, this is the best book on ocean change I have come across.

I found the opening chapter on the exploration and exploitation of the Bering Sea a great illustrtaion of even contemporary patterns and attitudes about fishing and extinction. So much so that I read a section to my marine ecology class last fall (not something I do regularly). I had my daughter Zoe type the excerpt (a penny a word!) that describes the discovery and subsequent loss of Stellers Sea Cow on Bering island in the mid-18th century. Roberts begins with the trials of an expedition led by Captain Vitus Bering and his men, stranded on Bering Island in the frigid north Pacific in 1741/1742. The descriptions of the now extinct Steller’s Sea Cow by German naturalist Georg Steller is particularly poignant.

The except is below. (Thanks again to Zoe)

By the dawn of the eighteenth century, two hundred years of European exploration had sketched out much of the world’s coastline. But the north pacific, stretching from eastern Russia and Japan to North America, and the Southern Ocean, the name given to the waters around Antarctica, remained unknown and thereby enticing to adventures of the day…

As the winter set in, the land disappeared under deep snow. But food remained plentiful in the form of sea mammals. The naive sea otters could still be approached and clubbed with ease. The otters, wrote Steller,

at all seasons of the year, more, however, during the winter than in the summer, leave the sea in order to sleep, rest, and play all sorts of games with each other…it is a beautiful and pleasing animal, cunning and amusing in its habits, and at the same time ingratiating and amorous. Seen when they are running, the gloss of their hair surpasses the blackest velvet.

When the expedition first reached Bering Island, otters were abundant and encountered in groups of ten, sometimes up to a hundred. But with hunting numbers soon thinned, and the remaining animals eventually became wary, forcing men to seek quarry farther afield, then to drag the carcasses home over difficult terrain. In November and December, they could catch otters 3 to 4 kilometers from the camp [2 miles], in January 6 to 8 kilometers [4 to 5 miles], in February 20 kilometers [12 miles], and in March and April they had to travel up to 40 kilometers away [25 miles]…

It was at this time that the men turned their attention to an animal that had actually been nearby all winter-the sea cow. Steller’s description of the sea cow remains one of the only eyewitness accounts, for the beast survived but a brief moment in time following its discovery.

Along the whole shore of the island, especially where steams flow into the sea and all kinds of seaweed are most abundant, the sea cow … occurs at all seasons of the year in great numbers and in herds… The largest are four to five fathoms long [~ 7 to 9 meters or 24 to 30 feet] and three and a half fathoms thick about the region of the navel where they are the thickest [~ 2.25 meters or 8 feet diameter ]. Down to the navel it is comparable to the land animal; from there to the tail, a fish.The head of the skeleton is not the least distinguishable from the head of a horse, but when it is still covered with skin and flesh, it somewhat resembles the buffalo’s head, especially as concerns the lips. The eyes of this animal, without eyelids, are no larger than a sheep’s eyes . . .The belly is plump and very expanded, and at all times so completely stuffed that at the slightest wound the entrails at once protrude with much hissing. Proportionately, it is like the belly of a frog . . . .

Like cattle on land, these animals live herds in together in the sea, males and females usually going with one another, pushing the offspring before them all around the shore. These animals are busy with nothing but their food. The back and half of the belly are constantly seen outside the water, and they munch along just like land animals with a slow, steady movement forward. With their feet they scrape seaweed from the rocks, and they masticate incessantly . . . When the tide recedes, they go from the shore into the sea, but with the rising tide they go back again to the beach, often so close we could reach and hit them with poles. . . . They are not the least bit afraid of human beings. When they want to rest on the water, they lie on their back in a quiet spot near a cove and let themselves float slowly hear and there.


The sea cows, although docile, did not give up without a fight. Steller recounted,

I could not observe indications of an admirable intellect . . . . but they have indeed an extraordinary love for one another, which extends so far that when one of them was cut into, all the others were intent on rescuing it and keeping it from being pulled ashore by closing a circle around it. Others tried to overturn the yawl. Some placed themselves on the rope or tried to draw the harpoon out of it’s body, which indeed they were successful several times. We also observed that a male two days in a row came to its dead female on the shore and enquired about it’s condition. Nevertheless, they remained constantly in one spot, no matter how many of them were wounded or killed.

The fat of this animal is not oily or flabby but rather hard and glandular, snow-white, and, when its been lying in the several days in the sun, as pleasantly yellow as the best Dutch butter. The boiled fat itself excels in sweetness and taste the best beef fat, is in colour and fluidity like fresh olive oil, in taste like sweet almond oil, and of exceptionally good smell and nourishment. We drank it by the cupful without feeling the slightest nausea. . . . The meat of the old animals is indistinguishable from beef and differs from the meat of all land and sea animals in the remarkable characteristic that even in the hottest summer months it keeps in the open air without becoming rancid for two whole weeks and even longer, despite its being defiled by blowflies that it is coved with worms everywhere.


The rest,as they say, is history. Steller and his companions completed the ship and escaped Bering Island on August 14, 1742, sighting Kamchatka just three days later. They carried with them seven hundred sea otter pelts but left behind much of Steller’s painstakingly gathered scientific specimens for lack of space.

Word of newly discovered lands and their rich stocks of sea otters and seals proved irresistible, and hunting expeditions were quickly mounted.

In 1755, an engineer called Jakovlev visited Bering Island and the nearby Copper Island to prospect for ore. He was so struck by the speed of decline of sea cows that he petitioned, unsuccessfully, the Kamchatkan authorities to restrict their capture. Martin Sauer, writing in 1802 on Bering’s expedition, said “the last sea cow was killed on Bering Island in 1768 and none has been seen since.”


Reported sightings of Steller's Sea Cows occur periodically (there was one in 2006 near Washington State), but none have ever been confirmed.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 01:35 pm
@farmerman,
Not up close and personal. But my daughter loves these creatures. Several years ago she was supposed to do a project where she was to be an endangered species specialists. She had to make a poster and convince others why they should help protect their species. I think I mentioned manatees to her as I've always been a bit interested in these unique creatures.

She agreed and since then has been a big fan of them. She found the save a manatee website and pooled all her money so she could adopt one. She said it was much more important to save one of these creatures than for her to get some dumb toy.

Since then she has wanted to be an endangered species specialist (of course after her career of a professional basketball player).

We hope one day to go visit as I do have a connection with a childhood friend that worked with one of the naturalist down in FL.
Linkat
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 01:38 pm
@farmerman,
I get a newslater from the save the manatee group regularly - they do have programs as well working with dugongs.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:15 pm
@rosborne979,
I think they have some skeletal remains of a STellers sea cow at thePeabody Museum.
0 Replies
 
farmerman
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 05:17 pm
@Linkat,
My first time seeing one was as a kid when my folks drove all the way to Fla for a vacation in September . We went tro a place called weekee watchie springs
0 Replies
 
sozobe
 
  1  
Reply Thu 17 Nov, 2011 07:25 pm
@Linkat,
Linkat wrote:
She agreed and since then has been a big fan of them. She found the save a manatee website and pooled all her money so she could adopt one. She said it was much more important to save one of these creatures than for her to get some dumb toy.


Wow, good for her!
0 Replies
 
 

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