Saturday, May 10, 2008

Manatees Make Good Mothers

Manatees are very attentive and doting mothers. They usually give birth to a single calf in a quiet and secluded area. Once the calf is born, the mother will stay very close, ensuring the calf can take its first breath on its own. The calf will vocalize immediately and the mother will call back. Scientists believe this is crucial to the pair's early bonding process. 

Manatee mothers have been seen floating perpendicularly and holding their calves against their bodies. In this pose they look very much like a human mother nursing her child. Calves begin to nurse a few hours after birth.

For manatees, the sense of touch is important and mother and calf will frequently swim pressed against each other. Manatees are generally solitary animals. If you see two manatees swimming together, chances are they are mother and child.

When the manatee calf is only a few weeks old, it will begin nibbling on plants. The calf will not be fully weaned until it is closer to a year old but will stay with its mother for a year of more after that. During this time, the mother is busy teaching her offspring which plants to eat, where to find safe resting areas and warm water refuges, as well as which migratory routes to follow.

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