Question and Answers

Here are the answers to questions and questions students have asked
from schools across the country.


• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
What does the manatee skeleton look like?

• Mrs. Tebo's 5th grade students:
How many bones does a manatee have?
Manatees have about the same number of bones you have in your body, around 200.

• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
Does a manatee have a brain as big as ours?
No. Compared to their body size they have a very small brain. Look at the manatee skull and you can see there is not a lot of room for a big brain.
Manatees have a smaller brain than a dolphin. A small brain does not mean that manatees are not intelligent. We just do not know what smart manatees are. Some scientists think that manatees are a lot smarter than people used to believe. Manatees are smarter than a cow, but probably not as smart as a dolphin.

• Brooke, Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
What does manatee skin feel like?
Feel a basketball or football. That is what manatee skin feels like.

Mr. Brown: Here I am rubbing this manatee's rough,bumpy skin.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
Do manatees have sharp teeth?
Stick your finger in your mouth. Feel those teeth in the very back of your mouth. Those are your molars. Molars are used for grinding up food. The teeth in a manatees mouth are all shaped-like your molars. Manatees have no sharp front teeth. Manatee teeth are only used for grinding up the plants they like to eat.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
How long does an average manatee get?
An average manatee is about 3 meters long.

• Tanya I.:
How long is the biggest manatee and what is its weight?
The largest manatee was 3.9 meters long. It weighted about 3,500 pounds.

• Lorie Ann V.:
How do you weigh manatees?
Manatees are weighed the same way you get weighed, on a scale. Manatees can't stand on a scale as you can, so researchers place wide slings under a manatee's body and weigh it suspended from a scale. After measuring and weighing lots of manatees, researchers can usually guess a manatees weight pretty closely by measuring its size.


• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
Do manatees ever fight with each other?
We used to think that manatees were always peaceful and gentle to each other. During our expedition we discovered that boy manatees will sometimes bump into other boys and shove them around. The boys sometimes push and shove to play. Sometimes the boys will also push and shove because they are fighting over a girl manatee. Nobody gets hurt when manatees fight. It is just a big shoving match.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
What does the manatee do when it feels like it is in danger?
When manatees are frightened the will make a particular squeaky sound. Manatees normally swim about 3-6 miles per hour, but if a manatee is scared it can swim away in a short, quick burst of speed of up to 15 miles per hour.


• David, Mrs. Oxnevad's 6th grade class, Roy School, Northlake, IL:
Have you ever seen a manatee female having a baby?
We have never seen a manatee female having a baby. This has never been seen in the wild. The only time anyone has seen a manatee baby being born is in captivity.

• Francis, W., Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
How many babies can a manatee mother have?
Before the expedition all the information we studied said that manatees only have one baby at a time. Dr. Lowe and Dr. O'Dell told us that once in a great while a mother may have twins!

Here is a mother manatee feeding her baby. The mother feeds her baby milk. The mother's milk comes out of a nipple on the edge of each front flipper. If a mother had more than two babies she would not have enough nipples to feed all of her babies at the same time.

• Mrs. Kostyk's 4th grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
How many babies can a manatee have in her lifetime?
A math question. We'll give you the numbers and you can do the math. Female manatees start having babies when they are 8 years old. A mother manatee gives birth to one baby every 3 years. Manatees can live to be 50 - 60 years old.

• Mrs. Tebo's 5th grade students:
Do manatees have a special name or make a certain sound to call their young?
Just like your parents can recognize the sound of your voice, mother manatees can recognize the sounds their calves make. Mother do have a special sound they make to call their babies.


• Mrs. Stannard's 2nd, grade students, Cumberland School:
How many manatees have you saved in your lifetime?
The only manatee rescue we have been on was the one you saw us on this week. In that rescue we saved just one manatee. The adult male manatee was taken to a manatee care center at Lowry Park Zoo, in Tampa, Florida. The mother and calf were treated and released. We are helping to save and protect manatees by not using boats with propellers. As you know, we use kayaks on this expedition. We just glide gently on the surface of the bay and river without a dangerous propeller.

• Favio G.:
Are you going to tag the manatees with beacons so you know the manatee goes?
The manatees we rescued on Day 4 were tagged with satellite radio tracking tags. The mother and calf were tagged so scientists can find them again to find out how they are doing.

Mrs. Butler is holding one of the special manatee tracking transmitters that she makes. In her left hand she is holding the long tube that clips around the manatee's tail. In her right hand she is holding the transmitter that sends a signal to a satellite in space. From their computers manatee scientists can download the signal from the satellite and locate where the manatees are.

• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
How will they repair the lung of the adult manatee?
Right now they are just treating the manatee with antibiotics to stop the infection. The manatee is in "stable, but guarded condition". If the manatee gets better, then the doctors can decided what to do about the lung.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
How did the baby manatee get sick?
We think the calf has a virus. We think it got the virus from its' mother or father. We don't know. From the blood and skin samples that Dr. Lowe took he discovered that that the virus is that papilloma virus. This virus cause worts on the skin, just like worts people get. Fortunately the virus does not seem to be seriously affecting the calf's health.

Here is Dr. Lowe taking a blood sample from the baby manatee during our manatee rescue.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
We have just studied about water and talked about different kinds of water pollution. Do you think the virus that the baby manatee has was caused by some kind of pollution in the water?
We don't know. The scientists don't know either. Dr. Lowe says no one really knows and we can't make any assumptions until we get more data.


• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
Do they live in fresh and salty water, or do the rivers where they live have some salt in them?
Yes. Manatees live in fresh and salt water. The Amazonia manatee is the only manatee that spends all its time in fresh water. At the mouth of some of the rivers the fresh water mixes with salt water, so the water there is a little salty. Where manatee stay when the ocean water gets cold in the winter is in the inland fresh water springs. (Check our data from our journals to find out if the water in the springs salty or fresh. Compare our spring water data with the California salt water data.)


• Mrs. Tebo's 5th grade students:
What is the most common sickness of a manatee?
Manatees have a strong immune system and very rarely get sick. The most common problem that manatees die from is cold stress. If the water gets below 55 degrees F, and the manatees don't get into warm water the manatee could die from the cold.

• Mrs. Kostyk's 4th grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
Do manatees have any enemies?
Some researchers say the manatee predators could be sharks and alligators. No one has seen a shark or an alligator attack a manatee. No one has found any manatee remains in the stomach of a shark or alligator. Observation points to the conclusion that manatees have no natural predators. The only creatures dangerous to manatees are humans.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
Do they eat plankton?
Manatees eat underwater plants, but they do not eat plankton.

• Michelle, Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
Do you measure manatee years like people years or dog years?
People years. Manatee live almost as long as people (50-60 years), so there is no need to adjust for short lifespans as in dogs.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
How long can the manatees stay underwater? Can they stay longer that 10 minutes at a time?
The length of time a manatee stays underwater depends on what the manatee is doing. Normally a manatee takes a breath about every 3-4 minutes. If a manatee is swimming hard it may take a breath about everyt half a minute. When sleeping a manatee usually takes a breath about every 10-15 minutes.

• Libby, 1st grade student, St. John's Lutheran School, Orange, CA:
Are manatees an endangered species?
Yes. Manatees are an endangered species. Manatees are the most endangered of all marine mammals. A species is endangered when it is in immediate danger of extinction. Extinction mean s the last individual of a living species has died or been killed, and the species has vanished from the earth forever and will never return. There are problems for manatees' survival which include, loss of habitat, collisions with boats, water pollution, litter, harassment, flood gates, canal locks, cold weather, red tide. All the these, except the last two, are caused by people, so it is up to people to prevent the manatees from becoming extinct.

• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
How many manatees are left in the wild?
Mr. Bonde, from the Sirenia Project, told us there are between 2,500 - 3,000 Florida manatees. Fortunately the number of manatees seems to be increasing.


• Mrs. Hayes' 2nd grade students, Ranch View Elementary School:
What happens to the boaters that cross over the boundaries into the manatee sanctary? Do they get tickets from the water police?
If a boat crosses into the manatee sanctuary they can get a ticket from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife police officers that we met on Day 17.

Officer Jauschneg could have given this kid a ticket for swimming inside the manatee sanctuary. Instead Officer Jauschneg only gives a warning. He shows the kid the manatee sanctuary sign and markers and says that only manatees are allowed in there.


• Rylee, Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
Have you ever seen a manatee clap its flippers?
We have not seen a manatee clap its fllippers, but we have seen manatees rubbing their flippers together. Manatees also use their flippers to rub their eyes, scratch their chests, and clean their teeth and gums.

• Favio G.:
Do the manatees bite you?
The manatee don't bit us, but they do "kiss" us. The manatees are very friendly and gentle and don't try to bite us. Even if the manatees wanted to bite us, they would have a hard time doing that. Manatees don't have any sharp, front teeth. In fact, manatees don't have any front teeth at all! Manatees only have flat, grinding teeth in the back of their mouths.

• Zach, Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
What was the scariest part of your trip?
The scariest part of our trip was when our digital camera flooded with water on Day 6 of the expedition.

• Favio G.:
Have you ever had a time where you were scared of the manatee?
We have never been scared of the manatees, because we know they are not really going to hurt us. Mr. Brown was surprised when that manatee bumped him on Day 7.

• Favio G.:
Do the manatees get scared of Mr. and Mrs. Brown and speed away?
The manatees are not scared of any other animals, including people. Manatees will swim away from us if they don't want to play with us or have us scratch their bellies.

• Nicholas G., 8 years old:
Where are you and can you give more information about how me and my family can go there?
The manatee reserve in Florida is where we are. It is called the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge. It is located in the town of Crystal River. There are many hotels and motels here where you can stay. If you want to swim with manatees a friend of ours runs manatee snorkeling tours here, call him at Bird's Underwater! - (800) 771-2763. You can also look him up on the Internet -

• Brittany R., Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
Did you ever fall out of your kayak?
- Mrs. Brown: I've never fallen out of my kayak, but Mr. Brown has...three times on this expedition!
- Mr. Brown: Our kayaks are designed to be very stable. It is possible to stand up in them if you and very, very steady and careful. If you try to move too quickly and are not balanced just right you can fall out...and I have. If you don't try to stand up (Mrs. Brown doesn't) you won't fall out.

• Mrs. Sheltraw's 1st grade students, Del Cerro Elementary School:
Are you having fun?
We are having fun, but it is sure a lot of work. We get up early to start our day and usually get back after dark. After unloading our equipment from the van or kayak we take a shower, clean and take the film (or computer disk) from our cameras, then have dinner. After dinner, we prepare for the next day, then go to work on the computer writing that day's log and formatting our digital camera pictures that we will post with our log. After finishing our log pages with the photos, I (Mr. Brown) dial up our web site and upload the new photos and pages and run a check on the new pages to make sure they will work properly for you. Before I log off, I check and answer our e-mail. By the time that is done it is usually about 2 or 3 AM. When everything is finished, I go right to bed (Mrs. Brown is asleep by then.), so I will be ready for the start of our next day.

• Mrs. Riedl's students:
What do you do after you're working for the day?
On this expedition we are especially busy. Not only do we collect data, and take our pictures, but we have to make it all into information that our computer can work with, and that you can access on your computer from the Internet. We are not done working until it's time to go to bed. Last night I (Mr. Brown) was up to 5 AM, getting all our pages up on the Internet. (The week before last I did take an hour off to watch Star Trek.)

• Stephanie W., Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
Could you send us a video of you swimming with the manatees?
We don't have any videos of us swimming with manatees. We only took still digital photos and still film photos. On our next Internet expedition, this fall, to the Australia Great Barrier Reef, we will be taking video that you can watch from our expedition web site.


• Zach, Mr. Watt's 4th grade class, Smith Elementary School:
Why do you enjoy your job so much?
We enjoy our job because we love to travel, meet new people, and interact with the creatures that live under the sea. Our favorite sea creatures to interact with are manatees!

• Mrs. Riedl's students:
What is your favorite underwater experience?
One of our favorite underwater experiences is interacting with manatees.

• Mrs. Riedl's students:
What is your favorite place to scuba dive?
Our favorite place to scuba dive is in the Caribbean Sea on the island of St. Lucia.
(Can you find St. Lucia on a map or a globe?)

• Mrs. Riedl's students:
How did you get started with your career?
We started our school programs because we love talking to kids and getting them excited about all fun and fascinating creatures that live under the sea.
- Mr. Brown: I started scuba diving in 1980. I started studying marine life after I learned how to scuba dive. I have been a scuba diver for 22 years and a marine biologist for five years. I graduated from the University of California at Irvine in 1990. We wanted to go into this business because we have fun doing it. If you work at what you enjoy doing and have fun doing it, then it doesn't seem like work. It is like we get paid for having fun!
- Mrs. Brown: I started scuba diving in 1971. I wanted to be involved with scuba diving because it is like visiting another planet with weird and wonderful animals.

• Mrs. Riedl's students:
Do you have any children?
No, but we have lots of nieces and nephews.

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