Media Inquiries on USGS Manatee Research
We appreciate your interest in USGS' Sirenia Project. To help inform members of the media and public, we have provided relevant publications, reports, and websites.
USGS scientists have devoted more than forty years to studying the biology and ecology of the West Indian manatee. Research conducted by our scientists is used to help inform management actions, including the recent U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's announcement to downlist the West Indian manatee from endangered to threatened. Here, you will find information on the manatee science conducted by USGS. For more information, please use the contacts provided.
Every few years, USGS conducts a comprehensive analysis on the the status and threats for the Florida manatee. Those reports can be found here:
Population models developed by USGS are the primary decision-support tools used for status assessments, and rely on estimates of adult survival and reproduction rates from mark-recapture studies.
The Challenge: Florida manatees are threatened by watercraft-related mortality, the potential loss of warmwater habitat, red tide events, and other anthropogenic factors. The USFWS and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have regulatory authorities under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and state statutes to recover manatees. To support management decision-making, these agencies need quantitative assessments of population status.
Long-term monitoring data in the Manatee Individual Photo-identification System (MIPS), developed and coordinated by WARC-Sirenia Project in collaboration with Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory, are the basis for modeling manatee demography rates.
Nuclear microsatellite markers have been developed and implemented on ~2,000 West Indian manatees. These markers provide individual genetic fingerprints for mark-recapture studies, population structure information for the conservation of unique or isolated populations, and pedigree and relatedness information for addressing inbreeding and breeding structure patterns.
A multi-agency effort assesses the health of manatees and provides baseline information on their health, reproductive status, and nutritional condition.
Since 1978, USGS scientists have photo-documented manatees in the Southeast United States. Now, more than 3,000 manatees can be found in the MIPS database.
Manatees are tropical to subtropical in distribution and, with few exceptions, Florida is the northern limit of their natural winter range. The availability of warm-water habitat during winter is critical for the future persistence of the population in Florida.
USGS works with partners to assess manatee distribution and habitat use throughout the Northern Gulf of Mexico.
Critical information predicting condition changes in manatee habitat resulting from the alteration of freshwater flows to estuaries is needed to develop the PSRP Detailed Design and PSRP Operations Plan components and complete consultation under the Endangered Species Act.
Turbid water conditions make the delineation and characterization of benthic habitats difficult by traditional in situ and remote sensing methods. Consequently, only a small fraction of this valuable resource has been mapped or characterized.
It may be hard to believe the legend that sailors long-at-sea once considered manatees to be mermaids. The manatee nickname – the “Sea Cow” – which comes from the herbivores’ affinity for grazing on vegetation and their slow, ambling way just makes more sense. But a U.S. Geological Survey video reveals that while they may be cow-like, they also have more than a bit of the magical mermaid to them.
The risk of extinction for the endangered Florida manatee appears to be lower, according to a new U.S. Geological Survey led study.
Gainesville, FL. -- The first genetic study to compare nuclear DNA of endangered Antillean manatees in Belize with Florida manatees confirmed their designation as separate subspecies. Belize’s manatees, however, were found to have extremely low genetic diversity, raising questions about their long-term genetic viability.
The importance of a ‘blanket effect’ caused by layers of fresh and salt water in two warmwater manatee refuges along the coast of southwest Florida has been documented by a team of U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service scientists.
Manatee populations are growing at healthy rates in two of four regions off Florida’s coast, but may be stalled or declining in the remaining regions, according to a recently released report by the U.S. Geological Survey.
Florida Manatee with a tracking devise attached
Florida manatee population uses warm-water discharges from power plants during winter
Health assessment of a manatee
USGS researcher collects data on manatee in Florida spring.
Manatee swims in a Florida spring
Two manatees with radio transmitters attached
USGS conducts long-term, detailed studies on the life history, population dynamics, and ecological requirements of the West Indian manatee. Federally listed as endangered, the manatee is a large, gentle, plant-eating, and slow-moving marine mammal.
A manatee feeds on sea grass beds in Ten Thousand Islands region of Florida.