Manatee Birth and Reproduction

A mother manatee and calf. (Photo © Walker Stanberry)

As with most large mammals, manatees have a low reproductive rate. Manatees are not sexually mature until they are about five years old.

The calf nurses from the mother.
(Photo © Walker Stanberry
)

On average, one calf is born every two to five years, and twins are rare. Intervals between births range from two to five years. A two-year interval may occur when a female, or cow, loses a calf soon after birth. The gestation period for female manatees is about a year.

Male manatees assume no responsibility for raising the calf. Mothers nurse their young for one to two years, so a calf may remain dependent on its mother during that time.

Calves nurse underwater from teats located behind the mother's flippers and begin to eat plants a few weeks after birth. Newborn calves are capable of swimming to the surface on their own and vocalize at or soon after birth.

A manatee mom and newborn calf. (Photos © John Toebe, FPL)


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