The dugong (Dugong dugon) is one of four living species of the order Sirenia, which also includes three species of manatees. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas ), was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The dugong is the only sirenian in its range, which spans the waters of some 40 countries and territories throughout the Indo-West Pacific. The dugong has been hunted for thousands of years for its meat and oil. Its current distribution is fragmented, and many populations are believed to be close to extinction.
A herbivore is an animal anatomically and physiologically adapted to eating plant material, for example, foliage, for the main component of its die...
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An aquatic animal is an animal, either vertebrate or invertebrate, which lives in water for most or all of its life. It may breathe air or extract ...
Precocial species are those in which the young are relatively mature and mobile from the moment of birth or hatching. Precocial species are normall...
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Polygyny is a mating system in which one female lives and mates with multiple males but each male only mates with a single female.
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NoNot a migrant
Animals that do not make seasonal movements and stay in their native home ranges all year round are called not migrants or residents.
The dugong is an aquatic mammal with thick, tough, and smooth skin. The skin color of newborn dugongs is pale cream, darkening as they age, becoming deep slate gray on the sides and dorsum. The body of the dugong is sparsely covered with hair, and the muzzle exhibits bristles. The upper lip is cleft and muscular, hanging over the mouth, which is curved downwards. At first sight, dugongs look like whales, but they have evolved independently. They also develop tusks, which are visible in adult males.
Dugongs are distributed across the Indo-Pacific region, where they live in highly endangered and nearly extinct populations. They are found from the east coast of Africa to Vanuatu and other islands of the western Pacific. The highest concentration of dugongs is off the coast of northern Australia, whereas the second largest population occurs in the Arabian Gulf. Feeding upon seagrass, dugong prefers living in shallow and protected coastal, tropical waters. They generally inhabit salty waters and can tolerate brackish waters but rarely occur in freshwater.
Dugongs are social animals but generally occur alone or in pairs of a mother and calf. However, they are known to form large groups of several hundred animals. As semi-nomadic animals, dugongs may either travel huge distances in search of specific seagrass or live in the same area throughout their lives. They usually have to travel when their main food, seagrass, is in scarcity. When suitable seagrass is depleted, they move on, looking for new areas of feeding. Due to living in turbid waters, these animals are extremely hard to come across unless they are disturbed. Dugongs are shy in their nature and when disturbed, they quickly flee. When they don't flee, they usually explore the vessel or diver from a distance without coming closer.
Dugongs are herbivores (graminivores) and primarily feed on seagrass. They will occasionally eat invertebrates such as jellyfish, sea squirts, and shellfish. Populations in Moreton Bay, Australia, feed on invertebrates such as polychaetes or marine algae.
Dugongs are polyandrous, which means that one female has an exclusive relationship with two or more males. Dugongs may breed at any time of year. Males of this species are in constant search of receptive females. Reproduction usually depends on location, though they are known to have an extremely low birth rate, yielding a single young with intervals of 2.5-7 years. The gestation period is quite long, lasting for 13-14 months. Newborn dugongs are able to consume seagrass. However, it's maternal milk that helps them grow up at a fast rate. Young are nursed for more than 18 months, remaining close to their mother and typically riding on her back. Sexual maturity is reached within 6-12 years old in males and at 6 years old in females, although females of this species usually first give birth within 6-17 years old. Becoming mature, young dugongs rush to leave their mother, looking for mates.
One of the biggest threats to the population of this species is hunting for meat and oil. Dugongs are often incidentally caught in nets, targeting fish and sharks. This by-catch leads to high mortality because of insufficient oxygen supply. Ships, boats, and other vessels may strike these animals down throughout their range. Another notable threat is habitat disturbance in a form of water pollution, which leads to the destruction of seagrass beds that are the main food source for these animals. And finally, their population cannot increase due to the extremely low birth rate of this species. On the other hand, dugongs cannot be bred in captivity.
According to the WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the overall dugong population is estimated to be about 85,000 animals, living in the waters of northern Australia, from Shark Bay (Western Australia) to Moreton Bay (Queensland). Currently, this species is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List, and its numbers today are decreasing.
Social animals are those animals that interact highly with other animals, usually of their own species (conspecifics), to the point of having a rec...