[MARMAM] New publication on heat flux in Florida manatees

Nicola Erdsack erdsack at mote.org
Thu Mar 22 08:31:21 PDT 2018

My co-authors and I are pleased to announce our recent publication:

Erdsack N, McCully Phillips SR, Rommel SA, Pabst DA, McLellan WA, 
Reynolds JE, III (2018) Heat flux in manatees: an individual matter and 
a novel approach to assess and monitor the thermal state of Florida 
manatees (/Trichechus manatus latirostris/). Journal of Comparative 
Physiology B (online first). doi:10.1007/s00360-018-1152-7

Florida manatees (/Trichechus manatus latirostris/) possess an unusual 
suite of adaptations to accommodate both a fully aquatic lifestyle and 
an herbivorous diet, including a low metabolic rate and a very limited 
thermoneutral zone. Their relatively high lower critical temperature of 
around 20 °C suggests strong sensitivity to cold, thereby limiting their 
distribution to tropical and subtropical waters. “Cold stress syndrome” 
affects and kills Florida manatees every year during intense or 
prolonged cold weather, posing one of the major threats to manatees. 
However, knowledge regarding manatee thermoregulation is sparse, but 
essential for effective conservation and management of this threatened 
species. We measured heat flux in two captive Florida manatees at 
multiple times of the year, at 41 sites distributed across the entire 
body surface of each manatee. Heat flux differed significantly between 
individuals, and among body sites and times of the year. The pectoral 
flippers and axillae were identified as areas with highest heat 
exchange. Despite exposure to constant water temperature throughout the 
year, the manatees in this study had significantly lower heat flux in 
winter than in summer. We used the measured heat flux values to 
calculate total heat dissipation in individual manatees. The values 
estimated this way correspond well with the low metabolic rates 
estimated in previous studies, confirming the reliability of our novel 
approach. Our method provides simple and useful options for enhancing 
manatee welfare by monitoring the animals’ thermal state during 
potentially stressful activities such as during medical treatment, 
capture restraints and transportation.

The article is available online at 

Best regards,

Nicola Erdsack

Nicola Erdsack, Ph.D.
Postdoc Manatee Research
Mote Marine Laboratory
1600 Ken Thompson Pkwy
Sarasota, FL 34236
phone +1-941-388-4441, ext. 248
cell +1-941-284-0708
erdsack at mote.org

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