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Manatee stranding on the coast of Texas.

The sporadic occurrence of the West Indian manatee, Trichechus manatus, in Texas waters has been noted by some authors. Gunter (1941) reported records of nine manatees obtained from 1853 to 1937. Two were carcasses: one washed ashore in Copano Bay, near Bayside; the other was seen floating in Cow Bayou, which connects to Sabine Lake, near the Louisiana border. The remaining animals were captured alive on the lower coast (Laguna Madre and Rio Grande) except for a skull that was recovered from Brazos Island. Powell and Rathbun (1984) mentioned a 1979 sighting near Corpus Christi. These authors and Lowery (1974) suspected that some, if not all, of these manatees were seasonal visitors from Mexican waters.

On 4 February 1986, a manatee stranding was reported to the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network (TMMSN), Galveston Region. A local fisherman found the carcass of a male, in an advanced state of decomposition, rolling in the surf ca. 1 mi. W Caplen, Bolivar Peninsula (29[degrees]29'8"N, 94[degrees]32'7"W). Parts of the anterior portion of the skull, the flipper bones, and sternum were exposed. The total length of this manatee, measured from the tip of the exposed rostrum to the fluke tip, was 274 centimeters. Along the right side of the abdomen were 10 golfball-sized holes, which penetrated, but did not pass through, the blubber. Seven holes formed a V-shaped figure, with the other three forming a straight line immediately beneath it. The cause of these holes (as well as the precise origin of the animal) is unknown. A recent rope mark was visible around the tail stock. These wounds showed up well in a photograph.

No gross anatomical abnormalities were detected during a field necropsy. A mass of semidigested vegetal matter was found in the posterior section of the large intestine and a small sample was preserved for future analysis. The rest of the digestive tract was empty.

The carcass was buried, subsequently excavated, and the skeleton cleaned at Texas A & M University at Galveston. The skeleton is stored in the Texas Cooperative Wildlife Collection at Texas A & M University, College Station (catalog no. C271). This manatee stranding is the first to be recorded by TMMSN since its inception in 1980.

We thank Mr. O. K. Allen, Crystal Beach, Texas, for reporting the stranding and L. T. Findley and O. Vidal, ITESM-Campus Guaymas for reading and improving the manuscript.


Campbell, H. W., and K. Gicca. 1978. Resena preliminar del estado y distribucion del manati, Trichechus manatus, en Mexico. An. Inst. Biol., Univ. Nac. Auton. Mexico, Ser. Zool. 49, 1:257-264.

Gunter, G. 1941. Occurrence of the manatee in the United States, with records from Texas. J. Mamm., 22:60-64.

Lowery, G. L., Jr. 1974. The mammals of Louisiana and its adjacent waters. Louisiana State Univ. Press, Baton Rouge, xxiii + 565 pp.

Powell, J. A. and G. R. Rathbund. 1984. Distribution and abundance of manatees along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Northeast Gulf Sci., 7:1-28.


Department of Marine Biology, Texas A & M University at Galveston, P. O. Box 1675, Galveston, Texas 77553, and Department of Natural Sciences, Del Mar College, 101 Baldwin St., Corpus Christi, Texas 78404-3897
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:GENERAL NOTES
Author:Fernandez, Stephanie; Jones, Sherman C.
Publication:The Texas Journal of Science
Geographic Code:1U7TX
Date:Feb 1, 1990
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