Friday, April 1, 2022

Manatee Vocalizations

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Biodiversity, Wildlife, Nature, Behavior, Nature of Science

Ed Hessler

Scientific American 60-Second Science podcast which includes the transcript describes how scientists are unraveling what manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) vocalizations mean to other manatees. 

The vocalizations have been grouped into three categories: high squeak (mother and calf), a lower squeak (indicative of stress), and squeal (used during "cavorting" and "frisky behavior."  One thing that I especially like about the report is the description of how the field research was done. It is one of attaching the behavior observed at the time with the sound recording. Repeat until you have sufficient data which requires sophisticated computer software to analyze until the researcher has convincing evidence. The podcast features a conversation with lead researcher Beth Brady, a marine mammal biologist of the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium, FL.

This kind of research takes time (about 7 years) because manatees are solitary, shy and "difficult to approach in the wild." This research is useful and Scientific American reporter Ashleight Papp writes that "Manatees are what's known as a 'keystone species.' This means that by better understanding how this one species is doing, researchers can infer a lot more about the overall health of the coastal Florida ecosystem. 

You may listen to  the report and/or read the full transcript here (5m 14 s). The research is reported in the scientific journal Marine Mammal Science (link included).

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