Do manatees have live births?

Posted on · Posted in Blog
Posted by

Female manatees give birth to one live calf every 2-5 years. It’s possible for a female to give birth to twins, but this is quite rare. If a cow (female manatee) aborts or loses her calf, then she can conceive sooner and give birth to another calf in just one year. At birth, a Florida manatee calf is about 1.2-1.4 meters (4-4.5 feet) and weighs 27-32 kilograms (60-70 lbs.). The calves are born with either their tail first or head first. Manatee live births commonly occur during the summer and spring, but breeding is year-round. After birth, a calf remains close to the mother for between 1-2 years, although some are weaned earlier and become independent by the end of the first year.

Caring for manatee babies

Newborn calves are able to swim to the water surface on their own for their first breath soon after birth. They also vocalize at birth or soon after — an auditory form of communication that promotes the bonding between the mothers and their calves. Within a few hours after birth, a calf begins to nurse by suckling from the mother’s teats found under the pectoral (front) flippers. The milk is primarily water, but contains 20 percent solids, 13 percent fat (lipids) and 7 percent protein. The calves remain close to their mothers until they are weaned, which often means they start to eat sea grass instead of suckling their mothers’ milk. Once they are weaned, the calves become independent and go off on their own, allowing their mothers to breed again.

Responsibility for raising calves

Female manatees have full responsibility for nursing and raising the calves. Nursing of manatee calves takes place underwater with the babies suckling from the nipples located behind the front flippers. The calves depend on their mothers for nutrition and for learning about resting areas, feeding, warm water refuges and travel routes. While manatee calves start to nibble plants within a few weeks after birth, they learn gradually and are often weaned and left on their own after 2 years.

Rate of live births

The rate of reproduction is quite low in manatees. Both male and female manatees are usually sexually mature at the age of 5, with one calf born every 2-5 years. With a gestation period of about 13 months, an interval between births of 2-5 years and the birth of twins being rare, manatee populations tend to grow slowly. However, because manatees don’t have natural enemies and can live up to 60 years or more, their slow birth rate has little effect on their population. For more information on manatees, manatee tours and memorable swimming and kayaking experiences with manatees, visit the “Captain Mike’s Swimming With The Manatees” site.


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.

You might also like to read about