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Flora and Fauna

Marine mammals

The West Indian manatee is an endangered marine mammal. They can sometimes be seen in the coastal areas of the national parks or in Samana Bay, but hunting and the increase in boat traffic has caused a decline in their numbers. Nicknamed the 'sea cow', manatees can grow to over 3.5 meters in length and they 'graze' on aquatic plants on the ocean floor.

One of the principal breeding grounds in the world for humpback whales is on the Silver and Navidad banks off the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Each winter some 3,000 whales migrate from their feeding grounds in the North Atlantic, and congregate here to reproduce in shallow waters protected by coral reefs and free of boats and other distractions. Nearer to the mainland, Samana Bay is also a popular spot for whale watching, which has become an important tourist activity during the months of January, February and March click. The humpback is one of the larger species of whale, measuring from 12-15 meters and weighing up to 60 tons. Adult humpbacks are dark gray, while their calves are a lighter color. Although their name would suggest otherwise, humpbacks do not actually have a humped back. It only looks as though they do when they jump out of the water with arched backs. Other distinguishing features are their knobby heads, long, white flippers and large tails. Moreover, unlike all other toothed whales, the humpback has two blowholes rather than one. Humpbacks do not eat during their stay in Hispaniolan waters. Instead, they live off the 15-20 centimeters of fat accumulated during the feeding season by eating about a ton of food a day. Most of this turns to fat, and is the equivalent of a human daily diet of 8,000 hamburgers. The humpback's preference, however, is small fish and crustaceans called krill (about 6 centimeters long and resembling shrimps). While adult humpbacks reproduce and diet, the newly born calves drink 50 gallons of milk a day. This milk, produced by the mother, is about 50% fat, allowing the calves to grow big enough to survive the journey back to the feeding grounds in the north.

Other flora-fauna Files:
Amphibians and Reptiles
The Coral Reef
Land mammals

Iguana Mama

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