The inspiration for mermaid legends?

The manatee, an inoffensive marine mammal, weighs about 60 pounds at birth. Adult manatees weigh from 450 pounds to a ton and feast on about 100 pounds of marine plants a day.

Manatees are said to be affectionate and playful -- they've been observed to kiss -- and swim around with linked flippers. Some experts say the amiable sea cow may have inspired legends about mermaids, because the female manatee holds her nursing pups in a manner similiar to humans.

Basically defenseless, the manatees' only known enemies are sharks and humans. Humans have hunted manatees for meat, oil, and hides. More recently, power boats have taken their toll on sea cows, which are easily injured by propeller blades.

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