The Lifeline of Manatees (manatees and seagrass)
The relationship between manatees and seagrass is one of intricate interdependence that spans generations. Seagrass meadows serve as a sanctuary for these gentle marine mammals, offering a vital source of sustenance and a haven for their existence. In turn, manatees play a role in shaping the health of seagrass ecosystems. Through their grazing, they help maintain the balance of seagrass beds, preventing overgrowth and fostering diversity. This harmonious bond between manatees and seagrass highlights the delicate equilibrium that exists within marine environments and underscores the necessity of safeguarding both these magnificent creatures and their underwater habitats.
Manatees rely predominantly on seagrasses for their diet, consuming approximately 10-15% of their body weight in seagrasses daily. Manatees average about 1000 pounds, which means many will be eating nearly 100 pounds of seagrass per day. Manatees graze on seagrasses using their lips. Then, like us, they use their teeth to chew the grass before swallowing it. This grazing behavior helps control the growth of algae that might otherwise overwhelm the seagrasses.
However, seagrass beds face significant decline across numerous regions globally. Factors such as pollution, climate change, and overfishing contribute to this decline. This reduction poses a threat not only to manatees but also to other marine life reliant on seagrass for sustenance and refuge. Safeguarding seagrass beds is becoming vital to ensure the protection of both manatees and the broader marine ecosystem.