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Keywords:

  • manatee;
  • Trichechus manatus latirostris;
  • sperm competition;
  • testicular;
  • testes;
  • promiscuity;
  • sperm

Abstract

Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) are promiscuous, with multiple males mating with individual females. This suggests manatees are sperm competitors. Surprisingly, manatee testes are not relatively large. For adult males in non-winter, testicular size is approximately twice what is expected, based on allometry, for “typical” (i. e., non-sperm competitor) male mammals of similar size; for these manatees, combined testicular weight represents 0.19% of the body weight (n= 27 manatees). Testicular weight was generally largest in manatees older than 7 yr in non-winter. Testicular size of some sperm competitors is as much as an order of magnitude (or more) larger than expected in a “typical” species. Perhaps in compensation for the testes not being remarkably large, the seminal vesicles of mature manatees may be larger than the testes. Production of notably large volumes of seminal fluid characterizes sperm competitor primate species and may have positive energy consequences for species such as the manatee that have extremely low metabolic rates. Another possible explanation for the observed relationship between testicular mass and body mass in manatees is that selection for a greatly expanded hindgut and extremely dense, heavy integument could make the body mass of manatees “artificially” high, and the relative testicular mass “artificially” low.