Australian Animal Archive

Australian Dugong.

Dugong dughon (dyue'-gon : "dugong")

Status: Abundant.


The Dugong, sometimes referred to as a 'sea cow', feeds entirely on seagrass in sheltered, shallow tropical coastal regions, and is Australia's only sea mammal that is exclusively feeds on plants.

The Dugong swims relatively slowly by means of vertical movements of its horizontally 'whale-like' fluked tail, surfacing about every 80 seconds to breathe air via two valvular nostrils on the front of its head. The Dugong's body shape resembles that of a plump dolphin and their head is dominated by a wide, pig-like snout. The fore limbs are their flippers and they do not have any hind limbs.

Male Dugong's form small territories a few metres wide, on display for potential mates, where they remain during the breeding season. It is fairly common to see dozens of males in a shallow bay stirring up the sand as they patrol their territories and skirmish with neighbouring males.

There is no defined breeding season for Dugong's and a single calf is reared at any one time and it can be up to six years between births. Mating can be a violent encounter as many females can be seen to have parallel scars on their backs made by the short tusks of an over zealous male.

Calves stay fairly close to the mother for up to 18 months and swim with her in a piggy back style, just above her which offers protection from possible shark attacks from below.

Body resembles a plump dolphin but lacks a dorsal fin and hind limbs.Dark grey to brown in colour with a wide pig-like snout.
Sheltered shallow tropical and sub-tropical coastal regions with abundant seagrass meadows.
Forages and rests thorough the day. Solitary but can be part of a small heard.
A single calf is born usually between September and April.The calf will accompany its mother for about 18 months.
Grazes exclusively on the leaves, rhizomes and roots of sea grasses.
Very vocal. Barks associated with territorial aggression.Bird-like chirps with friendly interactions.

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