Do Manatees Eat Trees?

Interesting behavior from manatee at Blue Spring State Park this winter. Is the manatee actually chewing on the tree? Read below to find out! (Photo by Karen Hussey)

Q. We were at Blue Spring State Park this winter, and I saw a manatee chewing on a tree. Is this unusual?
----Karen Hussey, Florida

A. There are a couple of reasons the manatee might have been gnawing on the tree. It is possible that the tree had some algae on it that the manatee was eating. It is also possible the manatee just liked the way it felt. Manatees are more sensitive in their facial area than some animals, so they are more orally fixated. Either way, the manatee was not actually eating the tree or the bark. Although manatees are herbivores and only eat plant vegetation, they do not have the proper teeth arrangement to eat bark. They only have large molars in the back of their mouth, and they would need teeth in the front of their mouth in order to actually scrape off any bark from a tree.

--Courtney Edwards
Staff Biologist, Save the Manatee Club

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