Monday, October 18, 2010


The dugong (dugong dugon) is the closest relative of the extinct Steller's sea cow.  It is a large marine mammal and forms an order called Sirenia along with the manatees.  They are under the threat of getting endangered due to poaching.  

Physical Features
Dugongs are relatively smaller than manatees.  They are the second smallest living species of Sirenia, being bigger to the Amazonian manatee.  Females are normally larger than males.  The biggest female landed on the coast of Saurashtra, India which weighed about 1000 kilograms and was 13 feet long.  The normal length of an adult is 8 feet and they generally weigh 150 to 300 kilograms.  They have thick layer of fat called blubber which protects them from the cold environment of the water.

Diet                                                     A dugong feeding at the Sydney aquarium                              
The dugong is a herbivore and feeds mainly on underwater grass.  They root these grasses out of the sea floor with their snout and chop them with their rough lips.  They feed on these grasses day and night.  They are referred to as "sea cows" because of their diet which consists of grass like cows.  Unlike manatees, they are bottom feeders.

Dugongs are found in the warm, coastal waters of East Africa, India and Australia, which includes the Red sea, Pacific ocean and the Indian ocean.  They once roamed the waters of the South Pacific ocean and Indian ocean, but their numbers have greatly reduce due to poaching and they are only found in some parts of these oceans.

Dugongs are in the order of Sirenia like the manatees.  Their are subspecies recognized.  Dugongs are in the subfamily Dugonginae and in the family Dugongidae.  It used to be considered as a species of manatee and classified in genus of manatee.

Conservation Status
The dugong is currently threatened due to poaching and water pollution.  Its range has greatly decreased.  Many people have started breeding programs to save this species.

Source of picture 1:

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