Fun Dugong Facts For Kids

Oluniyi Akande
Oct 20, 2022 By Oluniyi Akande
Originally Published on Aug 05, 2021
Edited by Luca Demetriou
Dugong facts about one of the most majestic marine mammals.
Age: 3-18
Read time: 8.4 Min

Dugongs, or sea cows, are aquatic mammals which are mainly found in Northern Australia between  Shark Bay in Western Australia and Moreton Bay located in Queensland. The second largest Dugong population can be found in the Arabian Gulf.  They can travel for long distances for food but are not considered as migrators. They are cousins of manatees but have a paddle-shaped tail which differentiates them from manatees. Dugongs have a smooth skin and rely on seagrass beds in the shallow waters for survival.

Dugongs are very rare to spot as they habitat in shallow or deep waters. They do not rise to the surface of the water frequently. Dugongs are listed as endangered species, and their decreasing population is a huge issue that needs urgent attention.

Dugongs are incredibly intelligent and smart aquatic creatures. They migrate to different locations when seagrass is not available. The dugongs communicate with each other in chirping sounds. Rampant feeding on seagrass may result in further shortage of food but they are actually reproducing their own food by aerating the seabed which encourages growth of grass. Let’s have a look at the below dugong facts for kids and also have a view on dugong diet facts. You may also look at Leopard Seal and West Indian Manatee after this.

Dugong Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a dugong?

A Dugong (family: Dugongidae) is the only herbivorous marine mammal found in deep waters. A Dugongs diet consists of sea grass and marine algae, which is why they are commonly known as sea cows as they graze on grass. The dugongs have a fluke tail like a dolphin and a snout that is downturned. Dugong species prefer turbid or murky water for their survival. They cannot tolerate freshwater and are exclusively marine animals.

What class of animal does a dugong belong to?

The dugong is a marine mammal that is the only herbivore found in the deep waters that eats seagrass. Dugongs, even though they resemble a manatee, do not belong to the family of manatees. They weigh less than manatees and have different physical characteristics. Their rarity and the decreasing population are a great threat to their extinction. Issues like degradation of sea beds and illegal fishing traps are a major threat to the Dugong population.

How many dugongs are there in the world?

There are very few dugongs that live in shallow waters of Australia, the Indian, and Pacific Ocean. Dugongs are listed as creatures that are vulnerable to extinction by the IUCN Red List. The numbers of these beautiful sea creatures are decreasing day by day due to the loss of seagrass beds and pollution of water which disrupts their habitation. Illegal fishing and fishing of dugongs for consumption and trade also is causing their population to decrease.

Where does a dugong live?

Dugongs are long-lived, heavy-bodied, herbivorous marine mammals that belong to the family Dugongidae. They live in the coastal waters of Western Australia, the Western Pacific, and East Africa. They cannot live in freshwater and can tolerate marine water. Dugongs communicate by emitting sounds which are similar to chirps, whistles, barks that travel through water. They also communicate through sounds that echo underwater. They are also found in oceans around United States.

What is a dugong's habitat?

A dugong is a marine mammal that is native to the Great Barrier reef, world’s largest coral reef in the continent of Australia. The coastal shallow water around Australia were home to more than 85,000 animals but dugong populations are constantly decreasing across the world and they are highly endangered. The dugong species is hunted to extinction as well as traded to different countries illegally.

Who do dugongs live with?

Dugongs mostly live a sedentary lifestyle and migrate for miles in search of seagrass. Some dugongs prefer living in pairs, while sometimes, a herd of 7-10 Dugongs can be seen habituated. The herd or a group of dugong is called a nutcluster.

How long does a dugong live?

Dugongs have a lifespan of 70 years and give birth to only one calf during reproduction. They spend most of their time nursing and tending to their offspring. Low litter count and elongated weaning periods are also the reason why the gugong population is depleting. Young dugong calves are easy prey for crocodiles and sharks, which again contributes to population decrease.

How do they reproduce?

Dugongs reproduce through internal fertilization and give birth only to a single offspring after completing a gestation period of 12 months. After the juvenile is born, the mother dugong will cater to its offspring for a weaning period of 12-13 months. They reach sexual maturity when they are four to five years of age. They give birth every three to seven years in their 70 years of lifespan.

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of dugongs as listed by the IUCN Red List as vulnerable to extinction as there are very few numbers of dugong species habituating in the coastal waters. Dugongs are hunted for their meat and are also traded. They might accidentally get caught in fishing nets laid for killer sharks and whales. They are slow-swimmers and might die due to a collision with boats approaching at a fast pace.

Dugong Fun Facts

A dugong, even if similar to a manatee, are related to elephants as male and female dugongs as both grow tusks after reaching maturity. The tusks of these dugongs have prominent rings, which can be helpful to estimate their age. They have a small brain compared to their huge body as they lack preying instincts and strategies because of their herbivorous diet.

What do dugongs look like?

Dugong dugon is a majestic sea mammal that is closely related to elephants. It is a huge bulbous animal who is usually grey brown in color. Like whales, they have flattened fluked tail, a distinctive head shape, paddle like flippers but do not have any dorsal fin.

Dugong dugon are closely related to elephants.

How cute are they?

Dugong calves are cute and are adorable, although very bulbous and large. Adult dugongs have a chunky and fat body which might make them endearing. They have a smooth body and a fluke tail like that of dolphins. Their little round eyes also add to their cuteness. Their downward snout and wide upper lip also make them look cute.

How do they communicate?

Dugongs communicate by making noises that echo in the water and travel through it. They communicate by uttering chirps, whistles, barks, or blowing. It can also emit squeaks and trills to communicate with its own species.

How big is a dugong?

A dugong is a large marine mammal that is smaller than a manatee. An adult dugong can weigh anywhere between 300 to 500 kg. The dugongs have poor eyesight but can listen very well. They are approximately 13 feet long and are ten times bigger than sea turtles.

How fast can a dugong move?

Dugongs move very slowly and are labeled as slow-swimmers. They cannot move at a fast pace because of their body weight. Dugongs have a very large body mass and move about at a speed of 10 km per hour. They may dive as deep as 37 meters to feed on seagrass and can breathe in the water for 11 minutes. They rise to the surface of the water to breathe in oxygen through their nostrils.

How much does a dugong weigh?

An adult dugong can weigh up to 300-400 kg. The heaviest dugong species ever recorded was the Steller’s Sea Cow weighing more than 3500 kg. Dugongs have less body weight as compared to manatees. They are mostly related to the land animals, elephants as both the species experience an eruption of the trunk after reaching a mature age.

What are their male and female names of the species?

Male dugongs are called bulls, whereas female dugongs do not have a particular name. Dugong mammals have different names in different locations but as commonly known as sea cows, sea pigs, or sea camels because of their herbivorous nature.

What would you call a baby dugong?

The baby dugong is usually referred to as a calf, and they are dependent on the mother dugong till the first year of their birth. Baby bugong calves are very cute and also make excellent prey for crocodiles, killer sharks, and other marine predators. The juvenile dugong is looked after by the mother till 12 months.

What do they eat?

Dugongs, also known as sea cow, are herbivorous marine mammals that live in shallow and deep coastal waters. They cannot survive in freshwaters, and murky waters are their preferred habitation. They eat sea grass and therefore are commonly known as sea cows. They also eat marine algae and other marine plant material.

Are they dangerous?

No, dugongs are not at all dangerous, and they will never attack a human being. Human beings can even swim with dugongs. They are vulnerable to the human impact of water degradation and pollution, illegal fishing, and attacks by sharks.

Would they make a good pet?

The population of dugongs is on the verge of extinction which suggests that they cannot be kept as pets. Dugongs are huge mammals and like living in the deep coastal waters. They cannot survive in freshwater and cannot be reared as pets. They would be difficult to manage as pets and will not make good pets.

Did you know...

Dugongs are mostly related to elephants as they grow trunks after reaching maturity. The rings on the trunk can be counted to estimate the age of the dugong, just like the tree. An adult dugong will relatively be the size of a six feet man.

Is the dugong endangered?

Yes, the dugong animal is an endangered species and is listed as a vulnerable species to extinction by the IUCN Red List. The depletion of dugongs is mostly seen due to loss of habit, unavailability of seagrass beds, less litter size, illegal catching and fishing of dugongs, degradation, and other human impacts.

Dugong vs. Manatee

Manatees are huge in size as compared to a dugong. Manatees live in freshwater, while dugongs live in coastal waters. Manatees have a paddle-shaped tail, while dugongs have a tail similar to that of a dolphin. Manatees have an upper lip that is divided and a short snout whereas the dugong has a trunk like snout which is downwards in nature. The manatee has a wrinkly body, but the dugong has a smooth body.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including giant anteater, or plains zebra.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Dugong coloring pages.

Dugong Facts

What Did They Prey On?

Jellyfishes, sea squirts, and shellfishes

What Type of Animal were they?


Average Litter Size?


How Much Did They Weigh?

507-881 lb

What habitat Do they Live In?

tropical or subtropical waters

Where Do They Live?

australia, persian gulf, east africa and south asia

How Long Were They?


How Tall Were They?

10-13 ft







Scientific Name

Dugong dugon

What Do They Look Like?

Dark grey on sides and the dorsal region

Skin Type

Smooth and tough skin

What Are Their Main Threats?

human activities

What is their Conservation Status?

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Written by Oluniyi Akande

Doctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

Oluniyi Akande picture

Oluniyi AkandeDoctorate specializing in Veterinary Medicine

With an accomplished background as a Veterinarian, SEO content writer, and public speaker, Oluniyi brings a wealth of skills and experience to his work. Holding a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree from the University of Ibadan, he provides exceptional consulting services to pet owners, animal farms, and agricultural establishments. Oluniyi's impressive writing career spans over five years, during which he has produced over 5000 high-quality short- and long-form pieces of content. His versatility shines through as he tackles a diverse array of topics, including pets, real estate, sports, games, technology, landscaping, healthcare, cosmetics, personal loans, debt management, construction, and agriculture.

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