REPRODUCTION IN FEMALE MANATEES OBSERVED IN SARASOTA BAY, FLORIDA

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Abstract

Resightings of recognizable individual Florida manatees, Trichechus manatus latirostris, in Sarasota Bay provided information on life history and reproductive parameters. These parameters have been documented at winter aggregation sites, but few data existed for Florida's west coast at non-winter sites. Life history data are needed to estimate annual reproduction and survival rates and construct population models for manatees along west central Florida. Observations of 113 recognizable manatees of known sex sighted between 1993 and 1997 indicated a 1: 1 sex ratio. Fifty-three females produced at least 55 calves during five years of observation. Two large, presumably sexually mature females were never observed with calves in over five years of monitoring. Not surprisingly, several reproductive parameters matched those measured in previous studies at winter sites with a mean of 1.8 seasons of calf dependence, 2.2 seasons between births, and age of sexual maturity at 3–4 yr. Birth rates, fecundity, and proportions of females with calves varied only slightly among investigations.

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