How do you tell the difference between a male and female manatee?

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Difference between a male and female manatee

Manatees are large, fully-aquatic, mostly-herbivorous and gentle marine mammals often called sea cows. The gentle giants reside in shallow and calm waters of estuaries, rivers, canals, saltwater bays and coastal areas and can move from freshwater to saltwater without problems. At birth, a manatee is 1.2 meters to 1.4 meters (4-4.5 feet) long and weighs 27 to 32 kg (60-70 pounds). But when fully-grown, a manatee is 3 meters (10 feet) long and weighs 360-545 kg (800-1,200 pounds), although some can be as long as 4 meters (13 feet) and weigh up to 1,590 kg (3,500 pounds).

So how can you distinguish between male and female manatees?

Since they generally have a similar body shape and appearance, it is quite difficult to tell the difference between male and female manatees. In fact, even biologists find it hard to identify different manatee sexes. Nevertheless, a variety of ways can still be applied to distinguish the sex.

These include:

  1. Location of the genitals
  2. The main way to tell the difference between a female and a male manatee is the position of their genitals. In a male manatee, the genital opening is found on the underbelly just immediately below the navel, making the genital opening and the anal opening farther apart. A female manatee has her genital opening located on the underbelly but above her anus. So for the female manatee, the genital opening and the anal opening are closer to each other. To distinguish manatee sexes, you just need to view the underside and locate the genital and anal openings. The anus of both the male and female manatees is found next to the caudal peduncle (the tapered region just before the tail).

  3. Presence of a calf being nursed
  4. When on a manatee tour, it may be difficult to distinguish male and female manatees by viewing the location of the genitals. You may have to try a quick way of telling the difference. For instance, the presence of a calf that is being nursed from the mammary located below the pectoral fins will identify a female manatee.

  5. Size of the animal
  6. Male manatees are generally smaller than the females of the same age. In fact, while males tend to grow only up to around 9 feet in length and 1,200-1,800 pounds in weight, female manatees are about 10-13 feet in length and can weigh up to 3,500 pounds. By distinguishing manatees according to their sizes, you can quickly differentiate the males from the females.


Swimming with the Manatees boasts the best water adventure in Crystal River, Florida with lots of things to do for you and your family. For more information, contact us online, or call us at (352) 571-1888.

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