Subject: Manatees, eating habits

Nancy Sadusky (
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 11:47:06 +0000

Dear Julie,

Your questions was:

> What do manatees eat?

Manatees are the only aquatic mammals that are herbivores 
(plant-eaters).  The feed on a large variety of submerged, emergent, 
and floating plants.  Manatees can eat about 10-15% of their body 
weight of vegetation daily.  So, a 1,000 pound manatee would eat 
between 100-150 pounds of vegetation daily!  Seagrass beds are 
important feeding sites for manatees. 

There is a widespread myth that manatees were imported to Florida a few 
decades ago to control exotic, aquatic weeds.  Manatees will also eat exotic 
plants, but there aren't enough manatees to control these unwanted 
plants in all the areas where they are found.  Also, fossilized 
manatee bones have been found in Florida that date back at least 45 
million years, and naturalists visiting Florida as early as the 
middle to late 1800's mentioned the presence of manatees whereas 
exotic, aquatic vegetation was not introduced to Florida waterways 
until the mid 1900's.

Some favorite foods of manatees in Florida include: manatee grass, 
turtle grass, shoal grass, widgeon grass, hydrilla, tapegrass, water 
hyacinth, and water lettuce.

Hope this answers your question!

Nancy Sadusky
SMC Communications Director

Save the Manatee Club
500 N. Maitland Ave. 
Maitland, FL 32751