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    Manatees: When Push Comes to Shove

    By By Mel White
    June 20, 2013, 5:55:06 AM EDT

    All content for this article is from the April issue of National Geographic magazine. Read the full story


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    "Is a manatee ugly? Pretty is as pretty does, the saying goes, and a manatee does what it does very well. Its big, dense bones make it buoyancy neutral in the water; evolution didn’t consider that those bones would make it more likely to die from serious boat strikes. That flat, wrinkled face is as sensitive and muscular as a human tongue, perfectly adapted to allow a manatee to feed on aquatic grasses. Those strange hairs all over its face? They’re vibrissae, like the ones cats and dogs have, connected to sensors that relay the slightest tactile impulse to the brain. Cats and dogs have about 50 vibrissae on their faces; a manatee has 600. It’s not the manatee’s fault that it evolved in an environment with abundant food and no predators, so that it became unwary and vulnerable, so that its survival depends on our regard for it, our willingness to share this crowded planet."


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