Welcome to the Abilene Public Library’s Virtual Classroom.  This space will offer a new place for youth, teens, and adults to learn more about a variety of topics, with new content added regularly.

For each class, we'll share background information, educational videos, lesson plans, resources available for continued learning and more. Plus, we’ll offer a link to a test we’d appreciate if you completed to show what you learned!


What are manatees?

Manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. They have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout.

How big do manatees get?

The average Florida manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 - 1,200 pounds and can reach up to 13 feet in length and weigh 3,500 pounds!

Blue Realm - Episode 11: Manatees and Dugongs in Danger

Each year, hundreds of critically endangered manatees are killed in U.S. waters by boats, disease and cold weather. 2006 was the worst year on record for manatee deaths – 416 animals perished. With only a few thousand remaining in the wild, mostly in heavily developed Florida wetlands, the clock is ticking in efforts to save this amazing mammal from extinction.

Another rare species and close relative of manatees is the dugong. Dugongs cling to survival in a few isolated corners of the globe. In marine sanctuaries in Abu Dhabi, the bizarre animals have been notoriously difficult to find, let alone photograph. Manatees and Dugongs features exclusive HD imagery of the mammals in the wild and examines efforts of scientists to protect the two species. The program also includes thrilling captures and field exams of manatees in Florida

What is the myth about manatees and mermaids?

Many years ago sailors mistook manatees for legendary mermaids possibly because of the tricks light can play on the water, the far distance the sailors were viewing them from, and the fact that these animals have a flat, mermaid-like tails. Christopher Columbus was the first person to record the sighting of a manatee in the new world and was surprised at the not-so-beautiful "mermaid."

Why does algae grow on manatees?

Manatees are slow moving mammals that can be found in shallow water and oftentimes frequent the water's surface, which makes them very vulnerable to be hit by fast speeding boats. Some manatees are covered with a benign layer of algae due to their slow movement in shallow water. 

RANGE CITY, FL ( Florida TV)  Blue Spring Florida Manatees State Park.  One of the best places to see manatees in all of Florida.  Florida TV takes an inside look as to why manatees flock here each year.  And why people travel from around the world just to view these amazing creatures. 

We tag along with the “Save The Manatee” experts that show us how they track, save and count these sea cows.  Save the Manatee Club was founded in 1981 by Bob Graham, former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator, and singer/songwriter Jimmy Buffett. The Club was started with the mission to protect manatees and their habitat. Today, Save the Manatee Club is the world’s leading manatee conservation organization.

Blue Spring Florida Manatees State Park

How do manatees care for their young?

The relationship between a mother and baby is the strongest social bond created by manatees. A baby manatee is called a calf and the calf will stay close to the mother for one to two years to learn travel routes and the location of food, rest areas and warm water refuges. 

How long can manatees hold their breath?

Since manatees are mammals they do need fresh air to breathe however they can take in much more oxygen than humans and are known to hold their breath for up to 20 minutes when resting! When active they usually surface to breathe every 2-5 minutes, and when using a great deal of energy, they may surface to breathe as often as every 30 seconds. 

Underwater Manatee-Cam at Blue Spring State Park

This camera shows the mid spring run at Blue Spring State Park, where manatees congregate during the winter months when the river temperature in the adjacent St. John’s River drops below the temperature of the spring.  The spring run is a constant 72 degrees year-round making it a vital warm-water sanctuary for manatees in the winter time and it is completely closed-off to people. Any people seen in the footage are researchers with special permits. In addition to manatees, a variety of native fish such as gar, catfish, tarpon, mullet, grass carp, bass, mosquito fish and introduced fish such as tilapia, pacu, and armored catfish can be seen. Occasionally  turtles, cormorants, grebes or snakes make an appearance, too. 

Manatees who regularly winter at Blue Spring State Park near Orange City, Florida, have been chosen as adoptees for Save the Manatee Club’s Adopt-A-Manatee® program. Blue Spring’s natural spring maintains a year-round temperature of 72 degrees and is an attractive winter refuge for manatees who seek the spring waters when the surrounding river water temperatures become cold. To learn more about the Adopt-A-Manatee ® program, visit

Do manatees have any natural predators?

Manatees have no natural predators. While many people think sharks or alligators may be a threat to manatees, the species peacefully co-exist. Unfortunately, manatees face many other threats such as cold weather, red tides and algae blooms as well as collision with motorboats, entanglement in fishing line, ingestion of debris and habitat loss due to development.

Explore Oceans. Underwater Manatee Cam at Blue Spring State Park. Accessed 12/10/2021

Explore Oceans. Blue Spring Florida Manatees State Park  Accessed 12/10/2021

Blue Realm - Episode 11: Manatees and Dugongs in Danger. Nature. Accessed 12/10/2021

  1. Resources
  2. Lesson Plans
  3. Test Your Knowledge

Jacobs, F., & Kelly, L. (1991). Sam, the sea cow.

Follows the adventures of a manatee, or sea cow, from birth till after he leaves his mother.
sam the sea cow
Slow down for manateesArnosky, J. (2010). Slow down for manatees. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Injured by a passing motorboat, a pregnant manatee is rescued and taken to an aquarium to recover and have her baby in a safe environment.
Pettiford, R. (2019). Manatees.

Simple text and photographs introduce beginning readers to manatees.
Manatee calvesOwen, R. (2013). Manatee calves. New York, N.Y: Bearport.

 Examines the birth and care of manatees, including how long they nurse, what is the first thing they do, and where they live.
Daniels, P., & National Geographic Kids (Firm). (2019). Mammals.

Reference guide to mammals, for children"


Arnosky, J. (2010). Slow down for manatees. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons.

Daniels, P., & National Geographic Kids (Firm). (2019). Mammals.
Jacobs, F., & Kelly, L. (1991). Sam, the sea cow.

Owen, R. (2013). Manatee calves. New York, N.Y: Bearport.

Pettiford, R. (2019). Manatees.