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Record manatee deaths in Florida linked to more widespread pattern of seagrass habitat deterioration

In July 2021, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that 866 West Indian manatees (Trichechus manatus) had died in the state of Florida in the first seven months of the year alone. The news shocked and saddened many Floridians, for whom the gentle, slow-moving mammal is a statewide mascot, and served as a large blow to a statewide effort that had brought the Florida subspecies (T. m. latirostris) back from a slide toward extinction.

It came as little surprise, however, to scientists studying the manatees’ primary food source: seagrasses.

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