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or sea cow,
name for a large aquatic mammal of the order Sirenia. Living sirenians are the dugong and the manatee, both found in warm, shallow waters in sheltered regions, where they feed on seaweeds and seagrasses.
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(Dugong dugon), an aquatic mammal, the sole representative of the genus Dugong of the order Sirenia. It normally attains a length of 2.5-3 m, with males weighing about 170 kg and females about 140 kg. The small and barely mobile head merges with the spindle-shaped trunk ending with a horizontal bilobate fin. The forelimbs are supple flippers. Of hind limbs only rudimentary pelvic bones, concealed in the muscles, remain. The coarse skin is dark leaden or brown in color and covered with sparse hairs. Both jaws have five or six molars on each side, cylindrical in form and lacking enamel; in addition, the males have two tusklike upper incisors 6-7 cm long.
The Dugong lives in the coastal waters of eastern Africa, southern Asia, the Moluccas, the Philippines, the Malay Archipelago, New Guinea, and Australia, sometimes entering the mouths of rivers. The Dugong lives in groups of three to six animals or in pairs and feeds on aquatic plant life. The female gives birth to a single offspring. It is hunted, but its numbers have greatly decreased.
O. L. ROSSOLIMO