Moreton Bay Marine Life - The Dugong

Family Fun Boating & Fishing Natural Attractions

Posted 28 May

Dugongs are an import part of the Moreton Bay marine life, the world’s only fully vegetarian marine mammal and the only sea cow in Australian waters. Dugong, like whales and dolphins, spend their lives at sea.

Dugongs in Australia

Australian dugong habitats span from Shark Bay in Western Australia to our own Moreton Bay and also extend to north Queensland. It is believed there are 80,000 dugongs in Australian waters with approximately 14 000 off the coast of Queensland.

Dugongs are considered 'threatened' and are protected in the waters of Moreton Bay.

How to identify a dugong

Dugongs are fish-like in shape and have flippers and a tail. They can grow up to three metres in length and weigh up to 400 kilograms. Their skin is thick and smooth.

Their nostrils are located near the front of their head enabling them to breath with most of their body beneath the surface. Unlike other mammals, dugongs cannot hold their breath under water for very long. Their mouths are large, and the upper lip is covered in bristles which are used to find and grasp seagrass. Their ears and eyes are located on the side of the head and their movements are slow and graceful.

Dugongs live for approximately 70 years. Female dugongs first breed between the age of six and 17 years old. They produce calves every two and a half to five years. The female will produce a single calf after a 14-month pregnancy.

Dugongs feed mostly on small, delicate seagrasses, which are low in fibre, high in nitrogen and easily digestible. A dugong can dig up an entire seagrass plant including the roots.

This fascinating water creature has played an important role in the traditions and cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people for thousands of years.

Threats to dugong habitat

The greatest threat to dugongs is the loss of their habitat. As a result of increased siltation and nutrients from human activities on the land, such as urbanisation, industry and agriculture, seagrass beds have been diminishing.

The Moreton Bay Regional Council is part of the South East Queensland Water Quality Management Strategy partnership. The Council is undertaking numerous actions to improve the health of Moreton Bay in general and improving the habitat for dugongs.

Learn more about dugongs at Osprey House

If you'd like to learn more about dugongs in the Moreton Bay Marine Park eco-system, head to Osprey House at Griffin. 

Share your dugong encounters #visitmoretonbayregion

Feature image credit: Dolphin Island Wild Cruises

You may also like