Dugongs Eating, Swimming, and Serving as Seagrass "Mascots"
One minute dive
Perhaps best known for inspiring mermaid folklore in the Pacific, the ‘rotund,’ graceful dugongs—close relatives of manatees and sea cows—are stars of Malaysia’s shallow ocean meadows. See dugongs eating and swimming. Plus, learn more facts about the unique relationship between vulnerable coastlines and these loveable, but critically endangered, seagrass "mascots."
Explore The Pew's Charitable Trusts' ocean-science facts, findings, and fellows.
As a developing nation, Malaysia’s coast is undergoing rapid, large-scale development, putting pressure on the region’s sensitive seagrass meadows and the many animals that call them home. Seagrass beds are essential to the survival of a wide variety of species. But no other animals are more directly dependent on these meadows than the dugong, which have developed unique adaptations to seagrass life over the centuries.
This Pacific cousin to the manatee is critically endangered in Malaysia, and it relies solely on seagrass for its food and habitat. Pew marine fellow Louisa Ponnampalam is working off the coast of Johor, Malaysia, to identify habitats that are crucial for one of the country’s last remaining populations of dugongs.
Learn more about Louisa Ponnampalam’s dugong-conservation fellowship.