04 May Meet the vegetarian marine mammal that is often called a Mermaid

Dugongs, or sea cows as they are sometimes called, are marine animals which can grow to about 3 meters in length and weigh as much as 400 kilograms. The name sea cow refers to the fact that they graze on seagrass, making them the only vegetarian mammal in the Coral Triangle! In Indonesian waters, Dugongs observed throughout Indonesia range from Sumatera to West Papua.

Dugongs swim using their whale-like fluked tail and they use their front flippers for balance and turning. Their movements are often slow and graceful that’s why early explorers and sailors believed that they were mermaids because of their streamlined bodies and the large teats at the base of the flippers of the female dugong

Dugongs are the only living members of the family Dugongidae. Dugongidae and the family Trichechidae (manatees) constitute the mammalian order Sirenia.

They find and grasp seagrass with the aid of coarse, sensitive bristles that cover the upper lip of their large and fleshy snout. Small tusks can be seen in adult males and some old females. During the mating season, male dugongs use their tusks to fight each other.

Female dugongs do not reach sexual maturity until about 10 years of age and give birth every 3 to 7 years. A single calf is born after a 12-month gestation; the calf nurses for at least a year but also eats sea grasses at an early age while still nursing. Their slow breeding rate and slow growth rate means that dugongs are particularly susceptible to factors that threaten their survival. Throughout their worldwide range they are threatened by human impacts, particularly by the effects of habitat degradation.

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