Manatees are mammals, which means they have to come up to the surface to breathe air. Although they never leave the water, they usually come up for air every five minutes. Never let it be said that manatees don’t like their downtime, though. When they rest, they can hold their breath for up to 20 minutes. And when they exert great amounts of energy, they might surface every 30 seconds.
These gentle giants are herbivores and include more than 60 species in their diet as well as floating plants. They eat between 10% and 15% of their body weight in food every day. While they eat a lot of plant species, manatees prefer sea grass on the seafloor, per the Department of the Interior. Experts look to these sea mammals to evaluate the health of ecosystems. If manatees are doing well, it means their immediate environment is also in good condition.