Manatees are social creatures and what do social creatures do? They communicate.
Manatees do this in a variety of ways.
Most of the communication between manatees naturally takes place between a mother and her calf. But adults also communicate with each other relatively frequently – possibly as often as once or twice every five minutes.
They connect with each other via a series of whistles, chirps and squeaks. Each manatee tends to have its own “voice” and researchers have observed them communicate when afraid, angry, in pain, or sexually aroused.
They also have been known to squeal in delight, particularly when playing or surfing on a small dam’s outflows.
The chirping sounds can be hard to hear because they tend to be very short – swift bursts of sounds.
Scientists also believe manatees use their senses to communicate. Manatees tend to be loners (they might swim in groups of up to five but the times you’ll see more than one manatee with another usually is a mother and her calf), so it’s usually the mother and her calf who “talk” to each other as well as the males during mating season. A manatee calf is highly tuned in to its mother’s particular vocalizations. Some researchers believe they’ve identified manatee sounds that they think indicate fear and anger, and even sexual arousal of the female as she listens to a male calling to her. Manatees are believed to be able to recognize other manatees by their sounds and also are able to recognize a manatee it “met” in the past by its sounds.
Still, scientists aren’t quite sure how manatees make their squeaks and chirps. The mammals release no air as they make the sounds. Researchers, therefore, believe that the manatee has a larynx that produces the sounds.
Manatees can be very playful with other manatees. Both young and adult manatees are known to barrel roll and body surf.
Manatees, in fact, can be relatively easy to train. It’s believed that these marine mammals, like dolphins, can remember things over time.