If you know anything about manatees, you probably know that they can get to be pretty big. Full-grown manatees usually weigh somewhere between 800 to 1,200 pounds and reach around 10 feet in length. In fact, manatees can grow as large as 3,500 pounds and 13 feet in length!
But manatees don't start out that big as babies. Just as human babies are much smaller than fully grown adults, baby manatees are much smaller at birth. But just how small are baby manatees?
Here, we'll break down everything you need to know about baby manatees including, yes, just how big they really are.
When a human mother is pregnant, she usually has to carry her baby for 9 months before her baby is born. This is called gestation. A manatee gestation is actually a little bit longer - around 12 months or a full year.
Not all manatee breeds are exactly the same. Manatees breed all year round, which means that calves (baby manatees) can be born at different times. However, in Florida, most manatees are born in the spring and summer, and in West Africa, most manatees are born between February and May.
Manatee births are a pretty rare event. Female manatees do not start to reproduce until they are about four or five years old. When they do reproduce, manatees only give birth once every two to five years.
So Just How Big is a Baby Manatee?
When a manatee is born, they weigh approximately 60-70 pounds and measure between about 3-4 feet long.
Manatees can be born either head- or tail-first. A manatee calf will also still have fetal folds in its skin when it is first born that last for several weeks after birth.
Life for Baby Manatees
Once a manatee is born, it can already float to the surface of the water to take its first breath of air.
Baby manatees and their mothers have a close relationship from birth. Calves will begin to nurse just a few hours after birth by suckling from teats under their mother's pectoral flippers. Calves will also start to vocalize shortly after birth to communicate with their mother.
Baby manatees will stay close to their mothers for around one to two years as they learn travel routes and the location of warm water refuges, rest areas, and food. Even though the calf will be weaned by the end of its first year, it may still depend on the mother for longer.
Manatees: Gentle Giants
We tend to think of manatees as gentle giants, but baby manatees are even rarer and gentler. Because manatee calves are so rare and so dependent on their mothers, we must be extra careful when we see them in the wild.
Manatees are already very vulnerable creatures as they have relatively few defenses against predators (i.e. humans), but a baby manatee on its own needs the protection of its mother in order to survive.
Hopefully, now you have an even greater appreciation for manatees and their young and how important it is to protect them.
Contact us for more information about what you can do to protect manatees today!