West Indian Manatee

Adult Manatees are typically 9-10 feet long from snout to tail and weigh around 1,000 pounds; however, they may grow to over 13 feet long and weigh more than 3,500 pounds

West Indian Manatee
The American Manatee is a native species found in many of Florida’s waterways. The Florida manatee population has grown to over 6,600 animals today and as a result, in early 2017 the Florida manatee was reclassified from an endangered to a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.
This change in the species status is based on an increasing population and the establishment of effective protection measures to ensure the continued conservation of the species.

Information & Facts:

Description

The West Indian Manatee has adapted fully to aquatic life, having no hind limbs. Pelage cover is sparsely distributed across the body, which may play a role in reducing the build-up of algae on their thick skin. The average West Indian manatee is about 2.7–3.5 m (8.9–11.5 ft) long and weighs 200–600 kg (440–1,320 lb), with females generally larger than males.

The difference between the two subspecies of the West Indian manatee is that the Florida Manatee is commonly reported as being larger in size compared to Antillean Manatee. The largest individual on record weighed 1,655 kg (3,649 lb) and measured 4.6 m (15 ft) long. This manatee’s color is gray or brown. Its flippers also have either three or four nails.

Behavior

The West Indian manatee is surprisingly agile in water, and individuals have been seen doing rolls, somersaults, and even swimming upside-down. Manatees are not territorial and do not have complex predator avoidance behavior, as they have evolved in areas without natural predators. The common predators of marine mammals, such as killer whales and large sharks, are rarely (if ever) found in habitats inhabited by this species.

Diet

Manatees are obligate herbivores that feed on over 60 species of aquatic plants in both fresh and salt water. In addition, when the tide is high enough, they will also feed on grasses and leaves. They also consume some fish and small invertebrates.

While many manatees are known to eat a large quantity throughout the day, the amount they eat depends on their body size and activity level. Manatees typically graze for 5 or more hours per day consuming anywhere from 4% to 10% of their body weight in wet vegetation per day.

Because manatees feed on abrasive plants, their molars are often worn down and are replaced many times throughout their lives, so they are called “marching molars”. The molar teeth are similar in shape, but of varying sizes. Replacement of the molar teeth are done so in the forward direction. Manatees do not have incisors. In fact, the incisors have been replaced by horny gingival plates.

Reproduction

Female West Indian Manatees are mostly solitary creatures, however they form mating herds while in estrus. Most females first breed successfully between ages of seven and nine; they are, however, capable of reproduction as early as four years of age. Most males reach sexual maturity by the time they are three or four.

The gestation period is 12 to 14 months. Normally, one calf is born, although on rare occasions two have been recorded. The young are born with molars, allowing them to consume sea grass within the first three weeks of birth. On average, manatees that survive to adulthood will have between five and seven offspring between the ages of 20 and 26.

When a calf is born, it usually weighs 60–70 lb (27–32 kg) and is 4.0–4.5 ft (1.2–1.4 m) long. The family unit consists of mother and calf, which remain together for up to two years. Males aggregate in mating herds around a female when she is ready to mate, but contribute no parental care to the calf.

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West Indian Manatee

Adult with Calf

Conservation Status

Vulnerable (UCN 3.1)

Scientific Classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Sirenia
Family: Trichechidae
Genus: Trichechus
Species:
T. manatus
Binomial Name

Trichechus manatus

West Indian Manatee Range