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What is a dugong?


The dugong is a large aquatic mammal that inhabits shallow warm seas from eastern Africa to the northern coast of Australia. The dugong resembles a whale and measures from 7 to 10 feet long.

It has a relatively small head with a blunt snout, a flat crescent-shaped tail, and a pair of front flippers but lacks hind limbs. Its thick, nearly hairless hide is dark gray on the upper part of the body and white below. Dugongs have a few peglike teeth, and the males also have two large tusks extending downward from the snout. The dugong's diet consists of seaweed and sea grass, which are torn off between the animal's strong upper and lower lips.

Although dugongs were once very abundant, they are now almost extinct because they have been ruthlessly hunted for their oil and flesh. It is believed that legends about mermaids originated with sailors who saw dugongs lazing in the sea.

The dugong, Dugong dugon, is classified in the order Sirenia, family Dugongidae.

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