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Trichechus manatus (4) - tooth

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Origin : Florida (U.S.A.) - Santa Fe River

Geological era : Late Pleistocene

Age : 125,000 - 10,000 years ago

Size : mm 16 x 12 x 6

fossil tooth of manatee, mm 16 x 12 x 6.


The Sirenia are an order of aquatic herbivorous mammals, currently living in coastal marine environments or in fresh waters of the tropical zone. The specimens still alive are divided into two families: Dugongidae including the only species Dugong dugon, and Manatidae (or Trichechidae -not to be confused with the walrus, Odobenus rosmarus-), which includes three different species of manatees: the common manatee, the manatee of Amazon and the West African manatee, sometimes known by the name of sea cow or cow-fish.
These animals evolved in the Lower Eocene, about 55 million years ago by a group of primitive mammals, from which took their origin also other animals very different, including the elephants. Most bear some characteristics of primitive land animals, like the body, supported by four short strong limbs, not yet transformed into fins, and  a very short tail. Subsequently developed many forms, more and more adapted to marine environment: the family of Dugongidae is well known from the fossil of many primitive specimens. The family of Trichechidae instead is less known to the state fossil: an exemplar primitive, Potamosiren, has lived in the Miocene in South America, another, the giant Ribodon, dates back to the Pliocene.
Trichechus manatus possessed an average of seven teeth in each side of the jaw at any time. The teeth are lophodont, ie, their cusps are connected by ridges. As elephants, Trichechidae making tooth replacement with new ones emerging from the back of the jaw which progressively moving forward to replace the worn teeth, which are expelled from the mouth. This method of continuous replacement of teeth allows to manatees to chew and  feed on seagrasses in abundance.

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