Manatee FAQ: Breeding and Reproduction

Q. How long is the gestation period for a manatee and how and when is the sex determined?
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Q. Why is it not feasible to breed manatees in captivity to increase the population?
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Q. How do manatees produce calves?
A. Manatees do not form permanent pair bonds like some animal species. During breeding, a single female, or cow, is usually followed by a group of a dozen or more males, or bulls, forming a mating herd. They appear to breed indiscriminately during this time. Although breeding and birth may occur at any time during the year, there appears to be a broad spring-summer calving peak.


Q. How often do manatees have calves?
A.
The reproductive rate for manatees is low. Female manatees are not sexually mature until about five years of age. Males are mature at approximately nine years of age, although some males mature earlier. Intervals between births range from two to five years. However, a two-year interval may occur when a cow loses a calf soon after birth.


Q. How much do manatee calves weigh when they are born? Do they stay with their families for a long time?
A.
Manatee calves are about one meter (between 3-4 feet long) and weigh between 37-31 kilograms (60-70 pounds) at birth. Mother manatees nurse their young for a long period, and a calf may remain dependent on its mother for up to two years. The female manatee assumes total responsibility for raising the calf. The calf nurses from nipples located behind the mother's flippers and begins to eat plants a few weeks after birth.


Q. How soon can manatee calves swim after they are born?
A. Newborn manatee calves are capable of swimming to the surface on their own and vocalize at or soon after birth.


Read more about Manatee Birth and Reproduction


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