Unit 3: Science Connection

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Are Manatees Out of Danger?

There's good news for manatees. For some time, manatees have been in danger of dying out. Now some scientists in Florida say the number of manatees has increased and the sea mammals are no longer endangered.

Speedboats vs. Manatees

Manatees, or sea cows, live in the warm waters off Florida's coast. Manatees are grayish brown and weigh between 1,000 and 1,500 pounds. They can grow to be more than 12 feet long.

The sea mammals are herbivores, or plant eaters. To get to plants, hungry manatees sometimes haul themselves out of water. They eat between 32 and 108 pounds of plants each day. That means they spend most of their time looking for food.

What's a Manatee?

High-speed boats are one of the major threats facing manatees. Manatees are slow swimmers. They have trouble getting out of the way of a roaring speedboat. As a result, speedboats have often slammed into manatees, hurting or killing the sea creatures.

Government officials in Florida have passed laws to protect manatees from harm. They have posted speed limits on waterways where manatees live. They have also posted signs that warn boaters when they are in an area where manatees live.

The laws seem to be working. The population has increased to about 3,000 manatees. If the laws continue to be enforced, the number of manatees should continue to grow, the scientists say.

Despite the increase in the number of manatees, the animals are not completely out of danger. The scientists say that if manatees are not protected, their numbers could decline in the future. Some say the numbers may decrease by 50 percent during the next 45 years.
Think Critically

Word Wise

The oil spill endangered hundreds of birds

The police department enforces the law.

Sometimes long words are made up of smaller words. Read the sentences. What word do you see in endangered? How about in enforce? What do you think the words might mean?

To become greater or larger: I increased my spending money by taking a job after school.

To become less or smaller: To improve my grades, I decreased the time I spent watching television.

To move down or become lower: At sunset, the sun declines in the sky.

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Draw a picture to show the meaning of the words increase, decrease, and decline. Use positive or negative signs in your drawing. Looking at the words, what do you think the prefix de- means?

Data Hunt

Imagine you have been asked to create a magazine ad to help save the Florida manatees. Use the data from the article to design your ad.

  • Think about which facts about manatees you would like to use in your ad.
  • Create a line graph to show the population of manatees now and the population in 45 years if the manatees are not protected.
  • Be sure to include information on what people can do to help save the manatees.