Manatee Candy, Well.. Maybe

I took a break from grant writing, endless reading, and wading through (what seemed like) eight million journal articles to have a Wendy’s Frosty while gazing at the lagoon today. I was rewarded with the sighting of three manatees – all adults – happily munching seagrasses in a small canal off of Mosquito Lagoon.

There’s a ton of seaweed in the lagoon at the moment, much of the red cotton-candy like rafts we see at the surface are spiny seaweed, Acanthophora spicifera, but to be honest macroalgae identification is a haphazard science in the hands of anyone less than a PhD’d expert!  One manatee seemed to be munching it in shorts bursts.  He’d take a piece with his flipper, move it towards his mouth, move around his lips with that classic prehensile motion, and when he finished chewing-like movements the seaweed mop certainly seemed smaller.   I’m still not certain if he was actually consuming it.

This makes me wonder how good a manatee’s sense of taste might be (there isn’t much data on the topic).  Might this seaweed be one of its favorite seasonal delicacies; a sort of manatee candy?  Or is it just a random taste-testing.. something more akin to what my young nieces would call a polite “I tried it but, no thank you, I don’t like it” bite?