Life Cycle of a Manatee

By Ruth Taylor

Manatees, sometimes called sea cows, are large mammals that live in warm sea waters. They live in shallow coastal areas and feed on sea vegetation.

Life Span

Manatees have few predators and can live to be 50 to 60 years old. Full-grown manatees weigh from 400 lbs. to more than 1,000 lbs. and can reach 10 feet long.

Sexual Maturity

Female manatees reach sexual maturity between the ages of two and five. A sexually mature female may be pursued by up to 20 male manatees at a time.


Mating takes place year-round. Once a manatee becomes pregnant, the gestation period lasts between 385 and 400 days.


Newborn manatees are called calves. Manatees have one calf or, more rarely, two calves at a time. Newborns stay with their mother for at least a year. Some calves stay with their mother up to 2 1/2 years.


After birth, the mother brings her calf to the surface to breathe. The calf nurses underwater and does so frequently. The mother teaches its young the environment and how to graze for vegetation as it grows. Full-grown manatees eat more than 60 pounds of manatees every day.

About the Author

Ruth Taylor is a teacher and a freelance writer. She has been writing for years, but only recently started freelancing. Her articles have appeared in Livestrong, eHow and other websites. In college she majored in Spanish and graduated summa cum laude with a M.A.T. in teaching a second language. She has taught both in high school and elementary school.