2019-2020 Grant in Aid of Research

How Manatees Locate Food in Their Natural Environments

Amanda Moore

Manatees, which are members of the order Sirenia, are completely aquatic herbivores. How manatees find their food in their natural habitats remains unknown. It is unlikely manatees use tactile cues to find or detect food from a distance, but tactile cues likely have a role in whether or not plants are consumed once located. As plants do not produce sound, it is unlikely auditory cues are involved in finding food. It is therefore likely that manatees either find food using visual or chemical cues and the use of both provides increased efficiency in the location of food.  In order to test the sensory modalities of Antillean manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) used to find food, a field study will be conducted in Bocas Del Toro Providence, Panama testing whether manatees locate food based on visual or chemoreceptive cues when used in isolation, and to test whether the ability of locating food increases when multiple modalities are used.