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Order Description


Order Description

The Order Sirenia includes two families of tropical marine mammals. Although larger than most terrestrial mammals, these animals are rather small when compared to most other marine mammals. They are robustly rounded, with short necks and wide square faces. Their lips are covered with short stiff whiskers. They have very small eyes with rather limited vision. Their front legs are modified for use as flippers and they have no rear legs. They are herbivores inhabiting coastal areas and estuaries. Some believe they are the source of the mermaid legends.

Sirenia are Protected by state and federal laws.

The Order Sirenia is divided into two families. Members of the Family Dugongidae have flattened tails that are shaped like flukes. Members of the Family Trichechidae have a broad, round, flat tail. There are four species world-wide, but only one species is ever found in the southeastern United States.

Family Trichechidae

This family includes the only member of sirenia found in Georgia's coastal waters. Commonly called the Manatee or Sea Cow, this gentle social marine mammal is sometimes found in coastal areas during the summer months. It has a prehensile upper lip and short but dexterous front flippers. The lip and flippers are used together to help the Manatee consume large quantities of submerged and floating plants and algae.
Species in this family:
    Manatee (Trichechus manatus)