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There are a lot of strange looking animals on our planet, and Squeaks and I were just looking at pictures of one of them: the manatee. Have you ever hear of a manatee? A manatee is an animal that lives in warm oceans and rivers. Manatees are gentle animals and move very slowly, and eat mostly sea grass. Even if you have heard about these unusual looking animals before, I bet you don't know some of the amazing things that we've just learned about the manatee.

For example, while they are sometimes called sea cows because they're big and slow and like to eat plants, they're not cows at all. They're actually distantly related to another animal, elephants. Manatees and elephants both come from the same group of land animals that lived over 50 million years ago after the dinosaurs disappeared. Over time, some of these animals evolved into elephants while others evolved into animals that lived in water, manatees.

Like their larger, land-based cousins, manatees have thick, gray skin and not a lot of hair. Manatees don't have trunks like elephants do, but they do have big flexible lips, which they use to tear apart sea grass and stuff it into their mouths. Sort of like how elephants use their trunks to eat. And manatees are heavy like elephants, too. An adult manatee can weigh up to one thousand pounds. That's more than twenty of you.

And that's not all they have in common, male manatees and elephants are both called bulls. Female manatees and elephants are called cows. And baby manatees and elephants are both called calves. Elephants or manatee, they are both adorable.

Now, another cool thing about manatees, they grow new teeth their whole lives. Their old teeth just fall out to make room for the new ones, kind of like yours do when you're five or six or seven, but they keep losing and growing new teeth for their whole lives. Why? Well, manatees are herbivores, which means they only eat plants, and they spend about six to eight hours a day eating. But their food has tiny pieces of sand in it, which wears their teeth down. So, eventually, their teeth get so worn out that they fall out. But, since they are always growing new teeth throughout their lives, manatees always have plenty of teeth to keep eating.

And, lastly, our third amazing thing about manatees, their the original "Little Mermaid." Well, sort of. We know today that mermaids don't exist, but a long time ago people weren't so sure. Early explorers, including Christopher Columbus, often said that they say what they thought were weird human, half-fish beings rising out of the sea covered in seaweed. Scientists think that what these explorers were actually seeing were, yup, manatees.

It might seem funny that anyone could look at a manatee and think it was a woman with a fishtail, but, even though manatees don't look much like the "Little Mermaid," they do swim like her. Manatees can move their large bodies really gracefully through the water, and sometimes swim slowly upside down. They can even do somersaults. 

Now, if you're ever lucky enough to spot a manatee in real life, you'll know you're not looking at a mermaid, but a toothy relative of elephants that swim super gracefully.

If you'd like us to dive for more information about ocean animals, or anything else, just let us know by getting help from a grownup and leaving a comment down below or emailing us as Thanks for joining us on SciShow Kids. We'll see you next time here at the fort.