How long do they live? The Dugong can live up to and possibly over 70 years old [1].

Where are they found? These sea cows roam the Pacific Ocean in the waters of nearly 48 countries including Australia and India, see figure 1.

dugong-range
Figure 1. The range of the Dugong.

What do they eat? They are herbivores and depend on sea grass and algae to survive [1].

What do they look like? If you’re from Florida, then you’ll notice that they look a lot like the manatees that we have here. They should since the Dugong is closely related to the Trichechus manatus that we’re used to seeing. They’re also very closely related to the super curious and sweet, Stellar’s sea cow, but humans ate all of those into extinction. The Dugong can grow to be over 800 pounds and 13 feet long. See Figures 2 and 3.

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Figure 2. Another gentle giant.
Figure 3. The Dugong in an aquarium.

How do they reproduce? Dugongs reach sexual maturity around 6 years of age. They reproduce by sexual reproduction and give live birth usually to one calf at a time. The calves will stay with their mother until it’s time to find a mate [1]. So, they’re a lot like humans (they will stay at home as long as possible).

How do scientists know how old they are? Researchers make age estimations based on counting the growth layers of the Dugong’s tusks.

So what are we lacking? Although mitochondrial genome information can be found on the NCBI website, no nuclear genome data is uploaded. Age verification and reproductive senescence studies are also lacking.

Conservation status: The Dugong is listed as vulnerable by the IUCN Red List. Decline of this species is due to habitat destruction and hunting.

 

  1. Animal Diversity Web. Dugong dugon.  http://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Dugong_dugon/ Accessed 10/1/2016