One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
A sea cow found on the coasts of the Indian Ocean from eastern Africa to northern Australia. It is distinguished from the manatees by its forked tail.
Dugong dugon, family Dugongidae
- ‘This description helps to explain why both the dugong and the manatee have given rise to tales about mermaids, marine creatures with breasts and a forked tail.’
- ‘A modern analog for this is the dugong from the Pacific Ocean.’
- ‘Dugongs and manatees make up the order Sirenia, so-named because dugongs and manatees are thought to have given rise to the myth of the mermaids or sirens of the sea.’
- ‘Like its relative the manatee, the dugong's numbers are declining, with hunting, oil pollution, land reclamation and other human activities the causes.’
- ‘Genetic evidence suggests that the elephant's closest relatives in evolutionary terms are manatees and dugongs, herbivorous sea cows that live full-time in the water.’
Early 19th century: based on Malay duyong.
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