The dugong is the only mammal in the world to feed only on plants (sea grass). Dugongs are also referred to as the sea cow, due to their diet of sea grass. Dugongs are spread over 40 different countries, living mostly in tropical waters.
At first, sailors believed dugongs to be mermaids, probably because of their beautiful tails, a cross between a dolphin’s and a fish’s tail. On their heads they have a long snout, used like a vacuum cleaner to vacuum sea grass off the bottom. Below their snout-like head they have short paddle-like flippers used to propel them forward. Dugongs can reach the size of 4 metres and the weight of 500 kg. All dugongs grow tusks but its only on the mature males that the tusks break the skin, therefore becoming visible. Dugongs can vary from the colour of light brown to grey depending on age. They are covered in short bristly hair especially around the snout.
Dugongs are commonly found across the Indo-Pacific, from the east coast of Africa to islands in the West Pacific such as Vanuatu. They are also often seen in the Arabian Gulf or, more likely, the north coast of Australia. Dugongs stay in shallow, protected, tropical coastal waters. When the weather is windy they prefer to stay in protected bays yet when it is still and flat they tend to explore further out to sea in search of food.
The female dugongs are pregnant for around 13-14 months. They have their first calf between the age of 4 to 17 years old. After their first baby they usually have a calf every 3-5 years. The young, on average stay with their mother, sucking milk until they can feed themselves, for 18 months. Twins are possible but happen very rarely because the babies, when born are up to 1 metre long making it hard for the mother to give birth to 1 calf, let alone 2.
Dugongs are basically like an alive, marine vacuum cleaner, sucking up sea grass off the ocean floor. Dugongs feed in depths of up to 33 metres, eating nearly 40 kg of sea grass a day. Although dugongs are sometimes called sea cows they are more closely related to elephants then they are to cows. These mammals have an extraordinarily long life, living for over 70 years.
www.arkive.org; sighted on; 28.9.17
www.Dugongconservation.org; sighted on;28.9.17Jaiya's blog, Kids blogs.