Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 20.djvu/643

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623
THE SIRENS OF THE SEA.

and are actively pursued by the Indians. The largest and best-known species is the Florida manatee, which inhabits the Gulf of Mexico and West Indian waters; the South American species is smaller, and the African the smallest of all.

PSM V20 D643 Dugong.jpg
Fig. 2. Dugong.

The dugong is the congener of the manatee in the Indian Ocean and the Australasian waters. It is as large as the manatee, and visibly different. Its head is small in proportion to the body, and is separated from it by a slight but distinct cervical depression; its skull is short, and its snout terminates abruptly in a large, thick upper lip, looking "something like the trunk of the elephant cut short across"; its tail, horizontally flattened, like that of the manatee, is forked or crescent-shaped, instead of being entire, as with its congener; and its flippers are destitute of any traces of nails. The eyes are small, and are furnished with a third eyelid or nictitating membrane. For the rest, we let an English writer, who examined one of the animals at the hunting-grounds in Moreton Bay, Australia, describe him:

"Now I could understand," he says, why one person had told me the dugong was like a whale; another, that it resembled a seal; a third, that it was not unlike a porpoise. The animal was in some sense a reminder of them all, but really not to be compared with either. It was, perhaps, likest a seal of elephantine proportions; and a baby dugong that had been taken from one of the prizes over which the carrion-birds were fighting and squabbling, and that had been kept for dispatch in spirits to England, would very well pass for a member of the seal family. A tour round the mature specimen had to be twice repeated before I could see my w r ay to a clear comprehension of its 'points.' Its dull-brown body was like a large cylinder, tapering off toward the head and great paddle-shaped tail. Ears there were none to speak of. The eyes were tiny, and three parts buried. The two flippers, considering the size of the animal, were remarkably small. The most prominent feature was the head, which terminated in a solid, square-cut upper lip, that warranted its comparison with a bullock. Being a female dugong, there were neither teeth nor tusks in the upper jaw, but a couple of small tusks of good ivory had been that morning taken from one of the bulls already operated upon. The inside of the mouth was lined with a rough apparatus, like a worn-down scrubbing-brush. The dugong, in short, is a vegetarian of the strictest order;