Three manatees swimming


Daily Activity Cycle

Manatees are nonaggressive, nonterritorial herbivores that spend most of their time feeding (six to eight hours per day) and resting (two to twelve hours per day). The remainder of their day is spent traveling, investigating objects, and socializing by interacting with other manatees.

Social Behavior

  • Manatees are best described as semi-social. The basic social unit is a female and her calf. Groups of manatees gather and disperse casually. These groups tend to be temporary and vary regarding sex, number, or age. Manatees do congregate at winter warm-water refuges.
  • Manatees have been observed participating in loosely organized, seemingly playful activities such as bodysurfing and follow-the-leader.
    • Manatee bodysurfing involves groups of manatees riding the powerful currents generated below flood dams when the gates are partly open. Sessions of bodysurfing can last more than an hour. Bodysurfing manatees frequently nuzzle one another and vocalize between rides.
    • Follow-the-leader is another form of coordinated behavior in which two or more manatees move together in a single file. During this time they synchronize all of their activities including breathing, diving, and changing direction.