Subject: The dugong and the manatee

Leah Gerber (
Tue, 24 Mar 1998 22:58:07 -0800

At 01:24 PM 3/18/98 -0500, you wrote:
>I recently saw a program on the dugong which inhabits the Indian ocean.  I
>couldn't help from asking about the obvious similarity to our Florida
>manatee.  The program said it is thought a type of dugong evolved into the
>modern day elephant.
>Is there a common history between the dugong and the manatee?

Dear Bill,

The dugong and the manatee are both members of the order Sirenia, a group
of aquatic mammals popularly known as the sea cows. Only four living
species in two genera currently exist: three manatees and one dugong. These
include the Amazon Manatee, the West Indian Manatee, the West African
Manatee, and the dugong. Another Dugongid, the Stellers sea cow, was
exterminated by North Pacific sealers in the 18th century.  Sadly, if
current trends continue, more extinctions of Sirenians can be expected.  

Yes, the closest living relatives of Sirenians include elephants and
possibly hydraxes. The essential characteristics of Sirenians were
established about 40 million years ago.