One of the gentlest creatures on earth can be found living in warm coastal waters and rivers around the world. These gentle grazers are known for their docile and inquisitive natures, and are often keen to get a closer look at what you are doing. They present no harm to us, despite their large size, and make for popular exhibits in zoos and waterparks around the world. They are manatees, wonderful creatures that have amazed us for as long as we can remember.
It is thought that the manatee is the creature behind the myth of the magical mermaid. In reality, of course, it is simply another animal that has evolved to be well-suited to the environment in which it lives. Unfortunately for manatees, and for us, their populations have been greatly harmed by humans and their very existence is under threat. Thanks to international efforts to stabilize their populations, however, there is hope that they will make a strong recovery in the future.
These amazing creatures are simply fascinating to watch, both in captivity and in the wild. You would probably expect such an amazing creature to be associated with some amazing facts, and you would be right.
Manatee Fact #10: Closely Related to Elephants
Evolution causes animals to evolve into different species over a very long time. Very small changes occur from generation to generation, and natural selection ensures that a species is well-adapted to its environment. This ensures that it can survive, or even flourish, and pass on its genes to continue the species. Depending on how they adapt to the environment, some populations can evolve into a species that is quite different from the original. This can be seen throughout the animal kingdom, and the manatee is no exception.
Believe it or not, manatees are actually very closely related to elephants. At some point in the history of the two species, their common ancestors split into separate populations, each one adapted to a different environment. One group became the large, powerful land beasts we know today as elephants. Another evolved into the gentle grazer that is the manatee. The relationship is evident in the fact that both manatees and elephants have three or four fingernails.