: any of an order (Sirenia) of aquatic herbivorous mammals (as a manatee, dugong, or Steller's sea cow) that have large forelimbs resembling paddles, no hind limbs, and a flattened tail resembling a fin
The word SIRENIAN derives from the same source as the sirens of Greek mythology. That said, a "sea cow" somewhat clashes with the idea of the beautiful and alluring half-bird-half-woman creatures beckoning from an island in the Mediterranean. According to sirenian.org, these animals got their name from associations with mermaids, another offshoot of the half-woman-half-something else creature. European explorers, including Columbus, thought these exotic creatures to be mermaids because of the "pectoral breasts, dextrous forelimbs, and fish-like tails." Columbus commented in his ship's log:
They were not as beautiful as they are painted, although to some extent they have a human appearance in the face....
I really hope Columbus didn't take advantage of any mermaid-like SIRENIANS. I'm sure he'd been at sea for quite some time. The mermaid as a sexual being is fascinating in that she is essentially impenetrable. Mermaid-human relations involve a lot of compromise. Take Ariel from The Little Mermaid, for example. She had to give up her whole family and life in the sea in order to be able to fuck a man. In Splash, it's the other way around. Tom Hanks lets go of his life as a produce distributor to be with Darryl Hannah in an underwater kingdom. Of Mermaids. And Mermen. I'm not really sure what I'm trying to say—humans and mermaids cannot co-exist? Or their relationships are stronger since they're based in sacrifice? Or Christopher Columbus was a pervert.
Or a little bit of all of the above.