The gentle and highly intelligent animal known as the manatee does not really have a social structure as such. They live life mostly on their own, although a baby manatee calf can often expect 18 months of nursing from its mother. Manatees have been seen to be very caring and compassionate.During the mating season, the male manatee can be quite aggressive, but even when they are in groups, there is no “alpha”, no leader. And when they do form groups, the groups are small. Groups form when there is a food shortage, simply for convenience, or the manatees are migrating. But manatees often come to each others’ aid, if one is hurt or struggling. A stressed manatee can almost be sure that another manatee will come to his aid. Many scientists agree that the manatee is the most highly developed of all the marine mammals.
Mother manatees and calves do a lot of touching during the calves’ early development. These are very evolved and sensitive relationships, and prove that the manatees’ reputation for being gentle, compassionate and caring has a great foundation.
Manatees are also, when they are together, extremely playful animals. They enjoy engaging in play when they are bored, and mothers and calves play a lot. This play seems to be an important part of the calves’ development. And, while not much is known about the manatees’ interaction as they do not have a lot to do with each other, when they are not in survival mode, and when there is plenty of food for all, this playtime seems to be a special time of inter-relating.
While there is no real social structure among manatees, when in need they help each other. They engage in play together, and mothers and babies have a strong familial bond. They mostly keep to themselves, but can have short periods of time when they are in small groups. The manatee really is a “Gentle Giant”.