Dugongs are marine mammals similar in appearance to manatees and distantly related to elephants — even though they no longer resemble or behave like elephants. They are the only marine mammal that are plant eating herbivores. Dugongs are about 3 meters long and weigh around 400kgs. They have whale-like fluked tails and use their front flippers for manoeuvring and balance. Early sailors thought female dugongs were mermaids because of their slow graceful swimming, streamlined bodies and large teats (breasts) near their flippers.
Dugongs feed on the vast sea grass beds of the Great Barrier Reef area. These are air-breathing mammals that can hold their breath for about 6 minutes after which they must surface to take a fresh breath of air through their nostrils which are located on the top of their snouts.
The Great Barrier Reef is one of the last sanctuaries for the dugongs which is listed as vulnerable to extinction.
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