Reproduction and early-age survival of manatees at Blue Spring, Upper St. Johns River, Florida

Information and Technology Report
By:  and 
Edited by: Thomas J. O'SheaB.B. Ackerman, and H. Franklin Percival


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We summarize reproduction of adults and survival of calves and subadult Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) that were identified in winter at Blue Spring on the upper St. Johns River in Florida. Some records span more than 20 years, but most are from 15-year continuous annual observations during winter 1978-79 through winter 1992-93. Fifty-seven, first-year calves were identified; 55 litter sizes were one, and one consisted oftwins (1.79% of all births). Sex ratios of first-year calves did notsignificantly differfrom 1:1. Based on 21 of35 sighted females (15 individuals) that appeared pregnant and returned with calves during the subsequent winter, we estimated an early (neonatal to about 6 months) calf survival of 0.600. Based on estimations with a minimum-number-known-alive method, calf survival from the first to the second winter was at least 0.822, and subadult survival was 0.903 to the third, 0.958 to the fourth, 1.00 to the fifth, and 1.00 to the sixth winters. Seven females were observed from year of birth to their first winter with a nursing calf; the mean age at parturition to the first calf that survived to the next winter was 5.4 + 0.98 (SD) years. The estimated ages at first conception ranged from 3 to 6 years. The proportion of adult pregnant females was 0.410/year. Weaning was not observed in winter. Intervals between births averaged 2.60 + 0.81 years. The pooled proportion of adult females nursing first-winter calves was 0.303; the proportion of adult females nursing calves of any age was 0.407. These values do not significantly differ from those ofmanatees from the Crystal River or Atlantic Coast study areas. Anecdotal accounts are provided that suggested the existence of a pseudo estrus, an 11 to 13-month gestation, suppression of parturition in winter, and giving birth in quiet backwaters and canals. A female from Blue Spring produced at least seven calves during the 22 years since first observed and died giving birth at an estimated age of 29 years.

Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype Federal Government Series
Title Reproduction and early-age survival of manatees at Blue Spring, Upper St. Johns River, Florida
Series title Information and Technology Report
Year Published 1995
Language English
Publisher National Biological Service
Contributing office(s) Southeast Ecological Science Center
Description 20 p.
Larger Work Type Report
Larger Work Subtype Federal Government Series
Larger Work Title Population biology of the Florida manatee
First page 157
Last page 176
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N