Dugong dugon Muller, 1776
The body of dugong is generally in a length of 1.5-2.7 meters like a spindle. The female is a bit larger than the male. It has smooth skin, soft and thin hair and body color from brown to dark gray. Sea cows resemble the animals of family Dugongidae in the same order Sirenia, but differ in the shape of skull and tail. The tail of sea cow is flat and slightly round, looking like a large paddle, while the dugong’s tail is fluked like a whale’s.
The dugong, like sea cow, is a large herbivorous aquatic mammal, feeding on juicy aquatic plants such as algae and weeds in the shallow oceanic trench. It breathes with lungs and needs to float on the water surface for breathing intervals at around 10 minutes or more. It is docile and slow in motion, with bad eyesight and keen sense of hearing. It is distributed over the tropical and subtropical offshores, the oceans abundant with sea plants near the coasts of Taiwan, Indian Ocean and West Pacific Ocean, and would sometimes enter freshwater areas. The pregnancy of females lasts at least 12-14 months, and the baby dugong is usually ablactated at the age of 18 months after when it would still stay with its mother for several years.
The name of dugong is directly originated from Malaysian language, and its popular name, just like sea cow, is mermaid of the fairy tale. The female dugong in breast-feeding would hold the baby with its forelimbs, exposing its head and chest above the water, which looks like a swimming human, and so the legend goes.