Diet of the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Belize, Central America

Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
By: , and 

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Abstract

Belize contains important habitat for Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) and provides refuge for the highest known population density of this subspecies. As these animals face impending threats, knowledge of their dietary habits can be used to interpret resource utilization. The contents of 13 mouth, 6 digestive tract (stomach, duodenum and colon), and 124 fecal samples were microscopically examined using a modified point technique detection protocol to identify key plant species consumed by manatees at two important aggregation sites in Belize: Southern Lagoon and the Drowned Cayes. Overall, 15 different items were identified in samples from manatees in Belize. Five species of seagrasses (Halodule wrightii, Thalassia testudinum, Ruppia maritima, Syringodium filiforme, and Halophila sp.) made up the highest percentage of items. The red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle), was also identified as an important food item. Algae (Ulva sp., Chara sp., Lyngbya sp.) and invertebrates (sponges and diatoms) were also consumed. Variation in the percentage of seagrasses, other vascular plants, and algae consumption was analyzed as a 4-factor analysis of variance (ANOVA) with main effects and interactions for locality, sex, size classification, and season. While sex and season did not influence diet composition, differences for locality and size classification were observed. These results suggest that analysis of diet composition of Antillean manatees may help to determine critical habitat and use of associated food resources which, in turn can be used to aid conservation efforts in Belize.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Diet of the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Belize, Central America
Series title Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
DOI 10.1017/S0025315417000182
Volume 98
Issue 7
Year Published 2018
Language English
Publisher Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom
Contributing office(s) Wetland and Aquatic Research Center
Description 10 p.
First page 1831
Last page 1840
Country Belize