Dugong facts supplied by DUG!

Dug The Dugong has some interesting information about his family compiled by: – The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority and James Cook University.

Facts about Dugongs:
Species: Dugong Dugon
Order: Sirenia
Genus: Dugong

Dugongs, or sea cows as they are sometimes called, are marine animals which can grow to about three metres in length and weigh as much as 400 kilograms. They are the only marine mammals in Australia that live mainly on plants. The name sea cow refers to the fact that they graze on the seagrasses, which form meadows in sheltered coastal waters. As dugongs feed, whole plants are uprooted and a telltale-feeding trail is left. Dugongs are more closely related to elephants than to marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, but their closest living aquatic relatives are the manatees.

Manatees are aquatic mammals that live in freshwater rivers and coastal waters of West Africa, the Caribbean, South America and the southern United States (Florida). Another close relative was Steller’s sea cow, previously found in the northern Pacific. It was hunted to extinction in the 1700s by sealers for its meat. It grew almost three times as long as the dugong and fed on large algae (kelp).


Dugongs inhabit shallow, tropical waters throughout the Indo-Pacific region. Most of the world’s population of dugongs is now found in northern Australian waters between Shark Bay in Western Australia and Moreton Bay in Queensland.

Life in the sea:

Dugongs swim using their whale-like fluked tail and they use their front flippers for balance and turning. Their movements are often slow and graceful. Early explorers and sailors believed that they were mermaids because of their streamlined bodies and the large teats at the base of their flippers. They have a rounded head with small eyes and a large snout. The nostrils are at the top of the snout and, like mammals, dugongs must surface to breathe.
However, unlike other aquatic mammals such as some whales, dolphins and porpoises, dugongs cannot hold their breath under water for very long. It is generally for only a few minutes, especially if they are swimming fast.

Dugongs have poor eyesight but acute hearing. They find and grasp seagrass with the aid of coarse, sensitive bristles, which cover the upper lip of their large and fleshy snout. Small tusks can be seen in adult males and some old females. During the mating season, male dugongs use their tusks to fight each other.

Physical Data:
Maximum longevity (most die at a younger age)~70 years
Pre-reproductive period (females) 6-17 years
Pre-reproductive period (males) 4-16 years
Gestation period 13-15 months
Litter size 1
Lactation length 14-18 months
Calving interval 3-7 years
Maximum possible rate of increase (e.g. low natural mortality &
no human-induced mortality) ~ 5% per year
Estimated natural mortality rate ~ 5% per year
The slow breeding rate and long life span mean that dugongs are particularly susceptible to factors that threaten their survival. Throughout their worldwide range they are threatened by human impacts, particularly on their habitat.

Please let’s not lose any more of these fabulous gentle creatures through apathy, ignorance or selfishness.