The endangered Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) is a survivor. It is one of only three living species of manatees which, along with their closest living relative, the dugong (Dugong dugon), make up the Order Sirenia. This taxonomic distinctiveness reflects their evolutionary and genetic uniqueness. Sirenians are the only herbivorous marine mammals; manatees feed on seagrasses; freshwater plants, including nuisance species such as hydrilla and water hyacinth; and even some shoreline vegetation. Because manatees depend on marine, estuarine, and freshwater ecosystems, our efforts to protect them necessitate protection of aquatic resources.
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