• Mel

Dugongs vs Manatees

Konnichiwa! Bonjour! Hola! Guten tag! Ciao! Ni hau!

There are many ways of saying hello in all kinds of languages, and just like this, animals also have their similarities and differences!

*Hehe, that got your attention didn't it?

Hiiiii! Kat is back with another blog!

Manatees and Dugongs have been thought to be the same animal for some time, just with a separate name! I'm here to put a twist on that theory;

They are completely different mammals!

If we shuffle the dugong and manatee onto two sides and sort their differences and similarities into categories... we have your education set out for you!



- this font = something the dugong and manatee have in common

- this font = something that either the dugong/manatee has that is unique to it's species

Common name:

Dugong - Dugong

Manatee - Manatee

Scientific name:

Dugong - Dugong dugon

Manatee - Trichechus


Dugong - Mammals

Manatee - Mammals


Dugong - Vulnerable. The dugong population is sadly going down! We need to protect them before it's really too late.

Manatee - Threatened/Endangered. Fun fact; in the US, the manatee conservation status moved down one as it's numbers were improving!


Dugong - Dugongs are around 2.5 metres to 3 metres long and are on average 420 kg.

Manatee - Manatees are usually larger than dugongs and can weigh between 400 and 500 kg. They can grow to a length of 3.6 metres too!


The dugong diet and the manatee diet is practically the same:

Dugong - Dugongs graze on sea grasses and aquatic plants that grow in the tropical shallows. They eat this all day and night!

Manatee - Manatees feed on a wide variety of vegetation like water grasses, weeds and algae.

They are both HERBIVORES!


Dugong - Dugongs live in shallow and protected areas. These enormous vegetarians can be found in warm coastal waters from East Africa to Australia!

Manatee - There are three different species of manatee, distinguished by where they live. The West Indian manatee ranges along the North American east coast. The Amazonian manatee species inhabit the Amazon River and the African manatee swims along the west coast and rivers of Africa.

Underwater behaviour:

Dugong - The Dugong can stay underwater for up to six minutes before needing to resurface, which is another reason why they swim in shallow water. They sometimes breathe by 'standing' on their tail with their head stretched out above the water. Dugongs mostly hang out by themselves (lonely much) or in pairs (which is less lonely)

Manatee - Never underestimate the manatee! Despite their puffy...well...everywhere, manatees are actually graceful swimmers! Powering themselves with their (still puffy) tails, they glide along at high speeds. They are seen in groups of a dozen or less, but sometimes also only as pairs or alone.

Loooonelyyyyyyyyyyyy! I am sooo looonelyyyyyy!

(cheers to anyone who recognises the song. Thx.)

Whilst swimming, manatees need to breathe every 3 to 4 minutes, but only need to breathe every 15 minutes if they are resting.


Dugong - Female dugongs have their calf after (bless them) a one year long pregnancy! The calf's mother helps it reach the surface and take a breath. Being in shallow water helps this process! The Dugong calf stays with it's mother for 18 months, often catching a ride on it's mother's back.

Manatee - Manatees are born underwater - like dugongs - every 2 to 3 years. Mothers must help their calves take a breath, but the babies can swim on their own only an hour later (skilled!). Manatee calves drink their mothers' milk, but adults eat heaps more!


Dugong - Dugongs have tail flukes with pointed lobes, like a whale! (the cuter ones, as Steph says) The nostrils of a dugong are placed further back on it's head than manatees. Num num. This allows them to breathe by only sticking their nostrils out of the water. As a dugong eats, you can see that it's mouth is short, broad and is at a 70 degree angle.

Mature male dugongs have a pair of sharper teeth, whilst manatees do not.

Manatee - The tails of manatees are large and horizontal. It is paddle shaped with one lobe which moves up and down as the manatee swims! Manatees tend to have a shorter snout than dugongs as it eats veggies all around in the water. Manatees have cheek molars which are continuously replaced because of the chewing motion. As the teeth move forward, they are replaced with new ones at the back! No more scary dentist appointments for manatees!

Well now that you know, you're probably already scolding those unknowing people! Good on you for being egotistic. Ha!

Hehe, no, we here at Seas of Change love you, so go check out our other posts and send us an email at seasofchange@outlook.com!

Thanks for reading, and as always,

"Think Wild and Wonderful!"

- Mel

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