Common Name: Dugong
Natural range of D. dugon.
General Description: The Dugong is also known as theSea Cow. The body of this large but streamlined animal is divisible into head, trunk and tail. The head is relatively small and the upper lip has a broad, horseshoe shaped extension, which overlaps the sides of the mouth. This muzzle carries a large number of bristles, hair and pores.
The forelimbs are modified as flippers bearing a general resemblance to those of a whale. These vary greatly in size, and have no nails. There are no hindlimbs. The trunk is broadest in the waist region and narrows behind to form the tail fluke, which is horizontal and crescent-shaped.
The skin is thick and covered everywhere with fine hair, which give it a prickly appearance in certain lights. The colouring of the dugong is variable. One individual was described as "dull brownish-grey on the back, fading to pure grey on the sides and to dirty flesh colour on the belly". Another very small dugong was of a "very light cream colour" whilst a slightly larger one was "light brown". Possibly, the colour changes with size or age.
Appearance At Sea: Dugongs are said not to ascend rivers nor venture far out to sea. They can be seen mostly in coastal waters.In the 19th century the animal was noted along the Malabar and Konkan coasts. One recent report has included the Dugong in a list of the fauna of the Digha coast of Bengal; it is not known on what basis this has been done.
Found In: Dugongs live in shallow, sheltered coastal waters where they feed upon sea-grasses and algae.
Records from India: Three areas of the Indian coast have populations of the Dugong now. The first, the Gulf of Kutch, was a region thought of as having little significance for Dugongs. It is now believed that there may be a sizeable resident population in this very poorly studied area. The second area, the Gulf of Mannar and the Palk Bay, has been the most important region for the species in Indian waters. The numbers here have decreased greatly compared with earlier times due to indiscriminate killing. Of the Dugong population of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the third area, little is known. A survey during the 1990s came across few specimens and concluded that Dugongs had grown less abundant in the Andamans and Nicobars.
World Distribution: The Dugong once had a wide distribution in the coastal tropical waters of the Indo-Pacific. It was recorded from East Africa, Mauritius and Madagascar, the Red Sea, India and Sri Lanka, Arakan and Malaysian Seas, Australia, New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Marshall Islands and New Caledonia.The range of the Dugong is still extensive. However, it is much depleted in numbers in most places.
Diagnostic Features: Dugongs are said not to ascend rivers nor venture far out to sea. They can be seen mostly in coastal waters.