How Manatees Got Their Name and What Makes Them So Unique

Siesta Key is known for a lot of things, but probably the biggest draw is the beaches. This island is home to some of the best white sand beaches of the Florida Gulf Coast, and with the stunning water comes some incredible wildlife. One of the animals special to Florida is the manatee, but how much do you actually know about them? This is your ultimate guide to manatees, which you might be lucky enough to spot from one of our Siesta Key beachside villas!

manatee mom and calf

How Manatees Got Their Name

Many nature enthusiasts wonder how manatees got their name, but the answer isn’t exactly straightforward. Experts aren’t completely sure where the original name came from, but one theory is that the word originated from the Latin term “manus,” meaning “hand.” Others believe the word “manatee” originated from the Taino, a pre-Columbian group of people from the Caribbean, and that “manatee” as we know it today comes from the Taino word “manati,” meaning “breast.” 

One name that just about everyone can agree on, however, is “sea cow.” This name is apt as manatees are slow herbivores with a peaceful disposition, similar to cows you would find on land. However, despite this accurate nickname, manatees are actually more closely related to elephants!

What Makes a Manatee Such a Unique Animal?

Manatees are some of the most easily recognizable marine creatures, but what makes them so special? You can point out a manatee if you look for the egg-shaped head, flippers, and flat tail. These animals are quite large, ranging in size from 8 to 13 feet and ranging in weight from 440 to 1,300 pounds.

You might think that, with all this weight, the manatee wouldn’t be able to swim very fast. However, when they really need to get somewhere, a manatee can swim up to 15 miles per hour!

There are three different manatee species: Amazonian, African, and West Indian, also known as American. As you can probably guess, the different names of the species reference the areas where they can be found. As such, when you’re visiting the Siesta Key Gulf Coast, you’re most likely to see the West Indian / American variety.

Manatees are typically found either alone or in pairs, and if you do spot them in a group, it’s probably a mating herd or simply a bunch of manatees sharing some food. These groups are typically no bigger than 6 manatees. The animals are strictly herbivores, preferring seagrasses, freshwater vegetation, or algae.

manatee

Where Can You See a Manatee in Siesta Key?

Now that you know some basic facts about manatees, where will you be able to spot them on your Siesta Key vacation? First, you’ll need to know the right time of year to come. Typically, manatees frequent the waters of Siesta Key during the winter and early spring months, as the winter temperatures are dropping and the warmer water is circulating. 

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One of the best ways to spot a manatee in the Siesta Key and Sarasota area is by taking an eco-tour. You’ll be under the watchful eye of an experienced guide, who can point out wildlife like manatees, dolphins, birds, and more. They will help your entire group stay safe, teach you about the history of the area, and most of all, have fun! A few of the popular tour companies in the area include Siesta Key Watersports, Le Barge Tropical Cruises, and Adventure Kayak Outfitters Tours & Rentals.

If you’re not visiting during the right time of the year or you would prefer to stay out of the water, Mote Marine Aquarium is a great option for viewing manatees. This establishment helps educate the public on our most endangered ocean life and what we can do to protect them. They put a great emphasis on animal rehabilitation and can get you up close and personal with some incredible manatees! After a long day of learning about and observing the majestic manatee, return to one of our Siesta Key condos to wind down with the ones you love most. Ready to start planning your Siesta Key getaway? Contact us today to learn more about our rental options!


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Crystal Sands Condominiums
6300 Midnight Pass Road
Siesta Key, FL 34242

Toll-Free: 888-419-1446
Local: 941-349-7007

Fax: 941-346-1963

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