June 12, 2024

Anecdotal Accounts of Manatee Behavior: Conservation and Management, Behavioral Ecology, and Cognition


Roger L. Reep and Gordon B. Bauer


Document: Article

Abstract: Herein, we report anecdotes of manatee (family Trichechidae) behavior based upon accounts made by experienced observers. We have categorized the anecdotes into the broad categories of Conservation and Management (interactions with boats, people, and capture nets; rehabilitation and release), Behavioral Ecology (navigation, mother–calf interactions, interactions with conspecifics, mating behavior and birthing, anti-predator behavior, foraging and eating), and Cognition (sensory perception; learning, memory, and knowledge; interactions with objects, other species, and people; and mimetic behavior). These are all subjects that pertain to the goals of the Florida Manatee Recovery Plan of 2001. We found that many accounts report similar behaviors, suggesting that these may be fruitful lines of further inquiry. One subcategory, Navigation, appears to offer many research areas amenable to systematic study. The apparent behavioral flexibility and knowledge shown in manatee actions in several domains suggest that investigations of manatee intelligence are likely to be revealing.

Key Words: manatee, Trichechidae, behavior, conservation, behavioral ecology, cognition

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1578/AM.49.2.2023.130

Page Numbers: 130-147


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