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Amazonian Manatee, Trichechus inunguis, Pictures, Stock Photos, Images

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The Amazonian manatee, Trichechus inunguis, shares many features with the West Indian manatee, so this fact sheet will focus mainly on differences and the unique circumstances of this South American species.

The Amazonian manatee inhabits the lakes, lagoons, oxbows, and slow-moving rivers of the Amazon basin. Its range is Brazil, Ecuador, Guyana and Peru, and it is found only in freshwater, whereas the West Indian manatee can survive in either fresh or saltwater.

The Amazonian manatee is also known as the Amazon ox manatee. It is dark gray with a white or pink patch or patches on its belly. It is generally smaller than the West Indian manatee, with the largest recorded male specimen having a length of 2.8 meters (9.2 ft). In contrast, the West Indian manatee may grow to a length of over 4.5 meters (14.8 ft). The Amazonian manatee is also slimmer than the West Indian manatee, and its snout is less downturned.

The Amazonian manatee thrives in areas that have abundant vegetation. It feeds on aquatic plants near the water's edge and on floating vegetation such as water lilies, consuming an amount equal to 8% of its body weight per day. It is active both daytime and nighttime, and never leaves the water. Amazonian manatees most actively feed during the wet season, when lowland areas become flooded. When the lowlands dry out, between September and March, the manatees head into deeper rivers and lakes to avoid being stranded. During the dry season, there is little vegetation to feed on, so Amazonian manatees are adapted to going long periods without food. Thanks to their low metabolic rate, they are said to be able to survive weeks or even months without feeding during this season.

Amazonian manatees may be found in small groups of 4 to 8 animals, alone, or in mother-child pairs. In times past, they were sometimes found in much larger groups, but over-hunting has reduced their numbers, so they are now better able to survive when spread out and less noticeable. Mothers sometimes carry their young on their back or clasped to their side.For centuries, Amazonian manatees have been hunted throughout their range, but were said to exist in good numbers until the 1940's. From that time onward, however, they have gone into decline, and are now highly endangered. Their meat, oil and hide are prized by subsistence hunters, and their hides were once in great demand for making machine belts. They face additional threats such as drowning in fishnets and degradation of their environment due to deforestation and soil erosion.

Amazonian Manatee underwater image
Amazonian Manatees, Trichechus inunguis, showing white ventral patterns typical of this species of sea cow, INPA/LMA, Brazil. Image #: 001975

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Subphylum: Vertebrata

Class: Mammalia

Order: Sirenia

Family: Trichechidae

Genus Species: Trichechus inunguis

>>> More Amazonian Manatee Pictures

For an account of the hunting methods used to kill Amazonian manatees, see:

For an illustration comparing species and species size in the order Sirenia, see:

Other names: Amazon Manatee, Amazon Ox Manatee, Ox Manatee, South American Manatee, Lamantin d'Amerique du Sud, Lamantin d'Amazone, Lamantino Amazonico, Lamantine, Manato Amazonico, Peixe-boi, Peixe-Boi-da-Amazonia, Vaca Marina Amazonica

- Amazonian manatee information assembled from published and on-line sources by Kevin Miller for Oct. 25, 2006.


Ripple, J. Manatees and Dugongs of the World, Voyageur Press, 1999.