Bee Ridge, FL, United States
Bee Ridge, FL, United States

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Sulzner K.,University of California at Davis | Kreuder Johnson C.,University of California at Davis | Bonde R.K.,U.S. Geological Survey | Auil Gomez N.,Sea to Shore Alliance | And 5 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2012

The Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus), a subspecies of the West Indian manatee, inhabits fresh, brackish, and warm coastal waters distributed along the eastern border of Central America, the northern coast of South America, and throughout the Wider Caribbean Region. Threatened primarily by human encroachment, poaching, and habitat degradation, Antillean manatees are listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The impact of disease on population viability remains unknown in spite of concerns surrounding the species' ability to rebound from a population crash should an epizootic occur. To gain insight on the baseline health of this subspecies, a total of 191 blood samples were collected opportunistically from wild Antillean manatees in Belize between 1997 and 2009. Hematologic and biochemical reference intervals were established, and antibody prevalence to eight pathogens with zoonotic potential was determined. Age was found to be a significant factor of variation in mean blood values, whereas sex, capture site, and season contributed less to overall differences in parameter values. Negative antibody titers were reported for all pathogens surveyed except for Leptospira bratislava, L. canicola, and L. icterohemorrhagiae, Toxoplasma gondii, and morbillivirus. As part of comprehensive health assessment in manatees from Belize, this study will serve as a benchmark aiding in early disease detection and in the discernment of important epidemiologic patterns in the manatees of this region. Additionally, it will provide some of the initial tools to explore the broader application of manatees as sentinel species of nearshore ecosystem health. © 2012 Sulzner et al.


Hunter M.E.,U.S. Geological Survey | Hunter M.E.,University of Florida | Auil-Gomez N.E.,Wildlife Trust | Auil-Gomez N.E.,University of South Florida | And 5 more authors.
Animal Conservation | Year: 2010

The Antillean subspecies of the West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus is found throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean. Because of severe hunting pressure during the 17th through 19th centuries, only small populations of the once widespread aquatic mammal remain. Fortunately, protections in Belize reduced hunting in the 1930s and allowed the country's manatee population to become the largest breeding population in the Wider Caribbean. However, increasing and emerging anthropogenic threats such as coastal development, pollution, watercraft collision and net entanglement represent challenges to this ecologically important population. To inform conservation and management decisions, a comprehensive molecular investigation of the genetic diversity, relatedness and population structure of the Belize manatee population was conducted using mitochondrial and microsatellite DNA. Compared with other mammal populations, a low degree of genetic diversity was detected (HE=0.455; NA=3.4), corresponding to the small population size and long-term exploitation. Manatees from the Belize City Cayes and Southern Lagoon system were genetically different, with microsatellite and mitochondrial FST values of 0.029 and 0.078, respectively (P≤0.05). This, along with the distinct habitats and threats, indicates that separate protection of these two groups would best preserve the region's diversity. The Belize population and Florida subspecies appear to be unrelated with microsatellite and mitochondrial FST values of 0.141 and 0.63, respectively (P≤0.001), supporting the subspecies designations and suggesting low vagility throughout the northern Caribbean habitat. Further monitoring and protection may allow an increase in the Belize manatee genetic diversity and population size. A large and expanding Belize population could potentially assist in the recovery of other threatened or functionally extinct Central American Antillean manatee populations. © 2010 The Authors. Animal Conservation © 2010 The Zoological Society of London.


Gibbs M.,Stetson University | Futral T.,Stetson University | Mallinger M.,Stetson University | Martin D.,Stetson University | Ross M.,Sea to Shore Alliance
Southeastern Naturalist | Year: 2010

During the winter, Trichechus manatus latirostris (Florida Manatee) depends on long periods of rest in comparatively warm thermal refuges to help conserve energy and maintain stable body temperatures. Pterygoplichthys disjunctivus (Vermiculated Suckermouth Sailfin Catfish) has been observed attached to, and grazing algae from, Florida Manatee in Volusia Blue Spring. We hypothesized that the disturbance caused by grazing armored catfish would significantly alter Florida Manatee behavior. Analyses of 6 hours of underwater video of Florida Manatee behavior, with and without attached armored catfish, revealed that during each observation period, Florida Manatees with attached catfish demonstrated significantly higher activity levels and numbers of active behaviors. Increased Florida Manatee activity caused by the armored catfish may compound the impact of other known threat effects.


News Article | December 7, 2016
Site: phys.org

The Mystic Aquarium in Connecticut reported this week that the manatee dubbed Washburn has been electronically tracked to the islands, about 350 miles from where she was released Nov. 1. A Sea to Shore Alliance scientist says just as it was unusual to find a manatee off Massachusetts, it's also rare to find one near the Bahamas. She says Washburn "has us on our toes wondering where she'll go next." The manatee was rescued off Washburn Island in Falmouth on Sept. 22 because of concerns that northern waters would get too cold. She underwent a month of rehabilitation before being flown to Florida in October. Explore further: Pregnant manatee rescued off Cape Cod to be moved to Florida


Martin J.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Edwards H.H.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Bled F.,Patuxent Wildlife Research Center | Bled F.,Colorado State University | And 12 more authors.
PLoS ONE | Year: 2014

The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform created the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. As part of the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process, we applied an innovative modeling approach to obtain upper estimates for occupancy and for number of manatees in areas potentially affected by the oil spill. Our data consisted of aerial survey counts in waters of the Florida Panhandle, Alabama and Mississippi. Our method, which uses a Bayesian approach, allows for the propagation of uncertainty associated with estimates from empirical data and from the published literature. We illustrate that it is possible to derive estimates of occupancy rate and upper estimates of the number of manatees present at the time of sampling, even when no manatees were observed in our sampled plots during surveys. We estimated that fewer than 2.4% of potentially affected manatee habitat in our Florida study area may have been occupied by manatees. The upper estimate for the number of manatees present in potentially impacted areas (within our study area) was estimated with our model to be 74 (95%CI 46 to 107). This upper estimate for the number of manatees was conditioned on the upper 95%CI value of the occupancy rate. In other words, based on our estimates, it is highly probable that there were 107 or fewer manatees in our study area during the time of our surveys. Because our analyses apply to habitats considered likely manatee habitats, our inference is restricted to these sites and to the time frame of our surveys. Given that manatees may be hard to see during aerial surveys, it was important to account for imperfect detection. The approach that we described can be useful for determining the best allocation of resources for monitoring and conservation. © 2014 Martin et al.


News Article | January 24, 2016
Site: www.techtimes.com

There may be a way to save the endangered population of North Atlantic right whales, scientists said. North Atlantic right whales are baleen whales - the largest animals on Earth - that grow up to 50 feet and weigh up to 70 tons. Although they are enormous, right whales only feed on zooplankton, tiny species that wander about the ocean. Right whales inhabit the Atlantic Ocean, and scientists said the animals' distribution depends on the distribution of their prey. Unfortunately, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there are only less than 500 individual right whales all over the world due to the effects of large-scale commercial fishing. In April last year, the NOAA advised recreational boaters to keep their distance from a school of right whales to ensure the animals' safety, or else, boaters will be subjected to a hefty amount of fines. North Atlantic right whales are protected under the United States Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Now, NOAA scientists developed a facial recognition software for whales that could perhaps be a key in saving one of the planet's most endangered species. How Facial Recognition May Save Right Whales Researchers at the NOAA first set up a competition to better identify and distinguish whales. The Right Whale Recognition contest, which was arranged by marine biologist Christin Khan, drew as many contestants as the current known population of right whales, with 470 contestants among 364 teams. Khan said she was inspired by Facebook's use of facial recognition to identify people in photos. The winning entry uses a facial recognition algorithm to distinguish whales 87 percent of the time. The software identifies whales by the patterns on their heads. It makes use of artificial intelligence to align, localize and finally identify right whales from aerial photographs. Developed by data science company deepsense.io, the facial recognition software could help save whales that have been caught in fishing nets. The algorithm allows scientists to report to disentanglement experts which whales have been trapped. At the same time, the algorithm would help marine biologists avoid performing mistaken biopsies on the same whale. Most importantly, the software will save scientists countless hours spent trawling through images of whales, freeing up time to carry out actual research. Previously, the only source of locating and distinguishing whales was by using aerial survey flights. Cutbacks in funding have ended the flights in several places. "Knowing how time-consuming post-flight processing can be, improved technologies to identify right whales quickly and accurately would be great progress," said research scientist Cynthia Taylor of the Sea to Shore Alliance. Piotr Niedzwiedz, co-founder of deepsense.io, said it was very exciting for their Machine Learning Team to participate and then win the NOAA competition. The solution they came up with helps solve a real-world problem and empowers marine biologists in their advocacies of protecting critically-endangered North Atlantic right whales, he said. "“The Right Whale Recognition challenge was a great opportunity to put our data scientists’ talents to the test and to demonstrate that deep-learning techniques ... can provide immense benefits in big data applications,” said Niedzwiedz. Meanwhile, Khan hopes to have the facial recognition software up and running by the next winter calving system.


Alvarez-Aleman A.,University of Habana | Beck C.A.,U.S. Geological Survey | Powell J.A.,Sea to Shore Alliance
Aquatic Mammals | Year: 2010

Manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) in Florida utilize intake and effluent canals of power plants as resting and thermoregulatory habitat. We report the use of a power plant canal in Cuba by a known Florida manatee, the first documented case of movement by a manatee between Florida and Cuba. In January, February, and April 2007, two manatees (mother and calf) were reported entering a power plant canal in north Havana, Cuba. The larger manatee had several distinctive scars which were photographed. Digital images were matched to a previously known Florida manatee (CR131) with a sighting history dating from December 1979 to July 2006. Exchanges of individuals between Florida and Cuba may have important genetic implications, particularly since there appears to be little genetic exchange between the Florida manatee subspecies with populations of the Antillean manatee subspecies (T. m. manatus) in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic.


Laist D.W.,Marine Mammal Commission | Taylor C.,Sea to Shore Alliance | Reynolds III J.E.,Mote Marine Laboratory
PLoS ONE | Year: 2013

To survive cold winter periods most, if not all, Florida manatees rely on warm-water refuges in the southern two-thirds of the Florida peninsula. Most refuges are either warm-water discharges from power plant and natural springs, or passive thermal basins that temporarily trap relatively warm water for a week or more. Strong fidelity to one or more refuges has created four relatively discrete Florida manatee subpopulations. Using statewide winter counts of manatees from 1999 to 2011, we provide the first attempt to quantify the proportion of animals using the three principal refuge types (power plants, springs, and passive thermal basins) statewide and for each subpopulation. Statewide across all years, 48.5% of all manatees were counted at power plant outfalls, 17.5% at natural springs, and 34.9 % at passive thermal basins or sites with no known warm-water features. Atlantic Coast and Southwest Florida subpopulations comprised 82.2% of all manatees counted (45.6% and 36.6%, respectively) with each subpopulation relying principally on power plants (66.6% and 47.4%, respectively). The upper St. Johns River and Northwest Florida subpopulations comprised 17.8% of all manatees counted with almost all animals relying entirely on springs (99.2% and 88.6% of those subpopulations, respectively). A record high count of 5,076 manatees in January 2010 revealed minimum sizes for the four subpopulations of: 230 manatees in the upper St. Johns River; 2,548 on the Atlantic Coast; 645 in Northwest Florida; and 1,774 in Southwest Florida. Based on a comparison of carcass recovery locations for 713 manatees killed by cold stress between 1999 and 2011 and the distribution of known refuges, it appears that springs offer manatees the best protection against cold stress. Long-term survival of Florida manatees will require improved efforts to enhance and protect manatee access to and use of warm-water springs as power plant outfalls are shut down.


Alvarez-Aleman A.,University of Habana | Angulo-Valdes J.A.,University of Habana | Garcia Alfonso E.,Empresa Nacional para la Proteccion de Flora y Fauna | Powell J.A.,Sea to Shore Alliance | Taylor C.R.,Sea to Shore Alliance
ORYX | Year: 2016

The Antillean manatee Trichechus manatus manatus is categorized as Endangered on the IUCN Red List but little is known about the status of the species in Cuba. Marine protected areas can contribute to manatee conservation in Cuba but the effectiveness of these areas may be jeopardized by a lack of information regarding appropriate design and management. We developed an index of manatee occurrence in the Fauna Refuge Ciénaga de Lanier, Isla de la Juventud, to assess patterns of manatee use in the reserve. We completed 26 field trips during November 2007–October 2013, with a total of 147 survey days. Manatee presence was detected on 47% of survey days and in 96% of field trips; 133 individuals were recorded in 93 sightings. The index of manatee occurrence varied between trips, suggesting a discontinuous use of the area. The mean group size was 1.4 individuals (range 1–5), and calves were observed in 13% of sightings. Observations of manatee behaviour, occurrence and habitat characteristics indicate the importance of the study area as a resting place, refuge and source of fresh water. We recommend that manatee protection be strengthened to avoid human-related mortality and to ensure that the habitats that provide critical resources are given special consideration in future management plans. Copyright © Fauna & Flora International 2016


News Article | January 27, 2016
Site: www.scientificamerican.com

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service made headlines around the world earlier this month when it proposed that the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and its relative the Antillean manatee (T. m. manatus) no longer be listed as “endangered.” Instead, the agency said, the famed sea cows should be considered merely “threatened,” a designation that means they’re no longer immediately threatened with extinction. That may be true in Florida, but manatees face much greater threats elsewhere. In fact, some conservationists fear that this announcement could be the thing that pushes some populations of Antillean manatee—the subspecies that ranges through the Caribbean and down through about half of the east coast of South American—into extinction. “The FWS is painting it as if things are good,” says Jamal Galvez, a research biologist with the Sea to Shore Alliance who has been working on manatee conservation in his native Belize for more than 15 years. “Their assessment doesn’t take into account what is happening down here in Belize.” What’s happening there isn’t very good. Just like in Florida, the manatees in Belize find their habitat shrinking due to coastal development, much of which supports the country’s vital tourism industry. Galvez says developers have dredged seagrass beds, torn out mangrove forests and built cruise ship ports in the critical habitats where manatees live. More tourism also means more high-speed boats, and that means more injured and killed manatees. At least 40 manatees, the highest number to date, were killed in 2015 by boats or other human factors such as fishing nets. Three have already been killed this year, Galvez reports. “The pressures that have been brought on this population have only been increasing through the years,” he says. “I can’t say that we have been able to stop anything that is having an impact on them.” Belize actually has one of the largest populations of Antillean manatees. The country has approximately 1,000 of the animals living along its relatively small coastline, Galvez says, making it arguably the most important country for manatee conservation outside of the U.S. Unfortunately, the recent FWS announcement made news in Belize, and Galvez says it has caused many people to believe that all manatee conservation is now a job well done and that the animals are no longer at risk. “People are calling me and saying ‘Jamal, you did it, you did it,’ and I’m not accepting that. I know that the population is not in a good place,” he says. Galvez worries that the announcement will slow—or even reverse—the progress that he and other conservationists have had over the past decade. “We’ve worked so hard to get people to see that they are at risk and trying to convince people why they should change their behavior,” he says. All of that, he fears, is now up in the air. “That perception that they are not endangered could very well cause them to go extinct,” he says. Manatees are legally protected in Belize, but the country’s Wildlife Protection Act hasn’t been updated since 1981 and only goes so far. “It doesn’t do much to protect manatees by itself,” Galvez says. What has apparently worked, however, is the U.S. Endangered Species Act. That law may not have had any direct influence in Belize, but Galvez says it does help small or developing nations like Belize to set the standards for both conservation and conversation. “Being on the Endangered Species Act was what really got people concerned about the manatee here in Belize.” The next few years could be critical for Belize’s manatees. “We’re not even close to seeing this population as biologically stable,” Galvez says. “We don’t have information that they’re reproducing at the rates that we need.” Meanwhile, new ports continue to be built and the threats to manatees continue to grow. Other dangers, such as global warming, potentially wait on the horizon. That’s why Galvez says tackling issues such as habitat loss, boat strikes, fishing nets and pollution is so important in Belize today. “We need to control the issues that we can control.”

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