Manatees and the Mermaid Legend

How Manatees Inspired
the Mermaid Legend







Florida Everglades


Manatees as Mermaids

As with most legends, there is some valid basis for linking manatees with mermaids, even though it's superficial.

But to do so you must erase any memories of paintings showing beautiful voluptuous mermaid women combing their long blonde hair while seated on a rock.

The manatee's vaguely human-like face is sometimes described as one only a mother could love. Indeed, it is difficult to understand how sailors ever mistook a manatee for a beautiful woman.

The face is not one you could fall in love with unless you'd been at sea for a very long time. If a manatee looks at all like a woman, it would have to be a very old and wrinkled one badly in need of a facelift.

A manatee's face seems always without expression, except when the animal yawns or readies to eat. Then it opens its wide jowls, sometimes flapping them. The rest of its stuffed-sausage body doesn't resemble the classic mermaid form, either.

But consider how a sailor would view the manatee from hundreds of yards away on a moving ship. Then it makes more sense.

When a manatee feeds, it will sometimes bob on the surface, using its flippers to grasp the vegetation and bring it toward its mouth.

When startled in such a position, a manatee will dive head-first, its great tail almost breaking the surface as it sounds. Thus the creature does indeed to seem to have a woman's head and the tail of a fish.

Despite the manatee's unglamorous appearance, there is still something majestic, almost regal, in the way these unusual animals move and act.

They move slowly, never appearing to be hurried. But with several flips of their tail, they can outdistance the fastest swimmer, traveling 21 feet in a single second

Where To See Florida Manatees

Manatee Photo Gallery

How the Manatee Got Its Name

How Long Do Manatees Live?

How Long Have Manatees Been Around?

Manatees and Elephants

Why Manatees Became Endangered

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