How much do you know about manatees? They live in Florida and it’s illegal to harass them -we know that much. Smithsonian wants you to know much more about manatees, and dugongs and sea cows, while we’re at it. Here's just a sample:
7. The closest living relatives of sirenians are elephants. Manatees evolved from the same land animals as elephants over 50 million years ago and the fossil record shows a much more diverse group of sirenians than we have today, with dugongs and manatees living together throughout their range.
10. Christopher Columbus and other early explorers claimed to have seen female figures swimming in the ocean—the mermaids in the writings and drawings of this era. Whether they had been at sea for too long or it was a trick of the light, we now know that many of these encounters were with manatees.
If that were the only thing Columbus and the other early explorers were wrong about, they’d have done well. So it seems like mermaids are related to elephants, huh? Not exactly the fairy tale you learned as a kid. Learn more about manatees at Smithsonian.