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Opportunistic Fish Consumption by Antillean Manatees (Trichechus manatus manatus) in Colombia

Dalila Caicedo-Herrera1, Yenyfer Mona-Sanabria1, Isabel V. Gómez-Camelo1, Maria Camila Rosso-Londoño1, and Antonio A. Mignucci-Giannoni1,2,3,*

1Biology Department, Radford University, Radford, VA 24142, USA. 2Centro de Conservación de Manatíes, Universidad Interamericana de Puerto Rico, 500 Carr. John Will Harris, Bayamón, PR 00957, USA. 3Center for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, PO Box 334 Basseterre, St. Kitts, West Indies. *Corresponding author.

Caribbean Naturalist, No. 74 (2020)

Trichechus spp. (manatee) are well known to be polyphagous herbivores. Recent accounts in Colombia indicate that manatees may opportunistically consume fish. To ascertain this, we conducted 313 interviews in Colombia covering 4 of the hydrographic basins where manatees are distributed. Over 46% of those interviewed mentioned that they have found their nets with damaged fish, whose flesh and guts had been “stolen”, supposedly by manatees. Only 2 species of fish seem to be taken by the manatees. The damage to the fish consists of the head being found intact, with the spine remaining attached, without scales, skin, muscle tissue, or internal organs, as if the fish was sucked from one side of the net. Manatee carnivory has been previously reported for Trichechus manatus manatus (Antillean Manatee), T. senegalensis (African Manatee), and Trichechus manatus latirostris (Florida Manatee). This documentation was considered from 3 different perspectives: (1) conflicts created between manatees and fishermen; (2) a form of allotriophagia (pica); and (3) fish as a dietary supplement. In Colombia, Antillean Manatees, whereas believed to be mostly herbivorous, are not strictly so, and this may have various ecological and human–animal interaction implications.

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