Do manatees talk during sex?
Caryn Self-Sullivan, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX
Tamra Gilbertson, Mote Marine Lab, Sarasota, FL
William E. Evans, Texas A&M University, Galveston, TX
On January 13, 1999, manatee vocalizations were recorded during a mating herd event in the Orange River,
Florida. Although copulation could not be observed, multiple males were observed with exposed
penises. During one 25-minute sample (1300 - 1325 hrs), over 400 manatee signals were recorded. In
March 2000, we captured and digitized each signal from the analog tape using a Marantz PMD 501, Ashly
equalizer (gain=0, filter=0), MAC 8100 and Canary 1.2.1. In general, signals were 100-200ms in length,
highly harmonic (up to 8 harmonics ranging from 1 to 16 kHz), with little or no frequency
modulation. Intervals between signals ranged from < 1 second to 14 seconds (mean = 3s), indicating that
manatees do indeed talk (a lot) during sex. Noise from 2 passing boats was also recorded during the sample
period. One abnormally low-frequency signal (0.4 kHz) was recorded during one boat pass. This apparent
manatee vocalization could be seen and heard below the boat noise frequency band.
Abstract published in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America 01/2002; 111:2343-2343. Full
manuscript in progress.