Manatees have long been misunderstood. Not only were they once mistaken for mermaids, but we're still learning about these gentle giants of the ocean.

It's generally known that they can live in both saltwater or fresh water, but did you ever stop and wonder if manatees get thirsty?

The video at the top of the page of a manatee drinking rainwater from a downspout certainly left us wondering.

Mandilo was rescued and bottle fed by trainers for a month until his mother accepted to breastfeed it Manatees are also known as sea cows because of their soft, gentle movements. This is Mandilo the manatee at the Zoo Parc of Beauval. (Photo: GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP/Getty Images)

Turns out, they rely predominantly on fresh water to survive, but their kidneys can adapt when they only have the choice of drinking saltwater.

Manatees' kidneys basically filter the excess salt for a period of time so they can drink and eat.

We don't currently know exactly how long manatees can survive without fresh water, but generally they move back towards fresh water after a week or two of living in saltwater. In fact, when there isn't enough fresh water available, they have been known to seek out unusual sources of water like a drain from an ice house, putting them in close proximity to boats, as this National Geographic video explains.

Keep in mind it's illegal to feed or disturb manatees in any way. As with any wild animal, if you happen to come across one in a Florida estuary, just enjoy it from afar.

Do manatees get thirsty?
Despite living in saltwater, manatees like to drink fresh water.