The Cows of The Sea

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Learn About: Dugongs

Photograph by David Fleetham/Visuals Unlimited, Inc./Corbis

Have you ever seen a dugong? This large water mammal lives in warm, coastal waters. It’s a herbivore, which means that it only eats plants; it’s like a vegetarian who eats vegetables rather than meat. A dugong’s mouth looks like my mom’s vacuum cleaner: it has a downturned snout that grazes and pulls up sea grass. Dugongs are also known as sea cows. They graze on the ocean floor like cows do in a field, but you can’t get milk from dugong!

A dugong is a big animal. It can weigh between 510 to 1,100 pounds, which is about the same size as a cow. The dugong has a tail that looks like a whale’s tail, but dugongs are actually closely related to elephants. It can stay under water for about six minutes, then it must swim to the surface to breathe. Sometimes dugongs “stand” on their tails and stick their heads out of the water to breathe.

Marmo's Tip: A few of my friends are dugongs. We like to pick sea flowers together. They told me that they sometimes get caught in the large fishing nets in the ocean. It’s very scary, because if a dugong gets caught then it is unable to get to the surface and get air to breathe. You can help keep dugongs safe by sharing this information with your parents, and ask them to make smart seafood choices when they shop for fish.