Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Dugong the Sri Lankan Sea Pig

Chairman of Sri Lanka National Aquatic Resources Authority (NARA)Hiran Jayawardhana says that at least 20 whales have been died due to accidents in the sea south of the island.

He says that the whales have died along the east-west sea route that crosses the island waters, some of them chopped by ship wheels.

A few blue whales and a threatened specie called dugong are among the killed mammals, the official says.

What is this dugong? It is interesting to study. Dugong is called Muhudu Ura meaning Sea Pig in Sinhala of which the flesh was sold in fish stalls until recent times. 

The dugong (Dugong dugon) known locally as muhudhu ura in Sinhala and kadal pandi in Tamil is the only representative of the order of mammals known as Sirenia (so named because these animals are thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaids or sirens of the sea) found in the coastal waters of Sri Lanka. It is the only extant plant-eating mammal that spends all its life at sea, and has the ability to convert marine higher plants into meat palatable to man. It is also referred to as a sea cow, as it is a grazer. But unlike cows, the dugong can cultivate its crops! The dugong’s body, flippers and flukes are like those of a dolphin, but it has no dorsal fin. Being a bottom feeder, its 

mouth is sub-ventral in position, and the snout is covered with bristles and small stiff hairs, which are supposed to be the best developed sensory hairs of any mammal. The flippers, which lack nails, are used for stabilizing the animal while swimming. There are two mammary glands, pectoral in position. As in elephants, the molar teeth are replaced by continuous growth from behind as the front ones are worn away. The dugong’s common ancestry with the elephant is evident from its teeth, prehensile upper lip, long digestive tract, herbivorous diet and location of the mammary glands. The incisors in males are larger than those in females and are referred to as tusks. Adults reach between 2.5 to 3-m in length and weigh on average between 250-420 kg.

Interested? Link to the source

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