Variation in microsatellites also differentiates manatees in Mexico from those in Florida, with minimal evidence of interbreeding, and the results further identify two relatively distinct groups within Mexico, a mixing zone with alleles from both of those groups, and the potential influence of migrants from Belize Nourisson et al.
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Furthermore, manatees in Belize appear unrelated to manatees in Florida Hunter et al. Within the eastern Caribbean, a study that combined mtDNA and nuclear microsatellites provides support for the separation of T. Within Florida, microsatellite markers yield very weak evidence of genetic differentiation among the four recognized management units Tucker et al.
Overall, the results of existing genetic analyses indicate reduced dispersal among many parts of the Caribbean and levels of dispersal within specific localities that appear to exhibit a positive relationship with increased abundance of manatees and availability of suitable corridors for dispersal.
However, these studies of genetics do not assess demographic connectivity as defined by the effect of immigrants on vital rates, which is an important element in effective conservation of T. In November , another adult and a calf were photographed along Cuba's northwestern coast near Havana Figure 1A , and the U. Calves were near FM in multiple years, which suggests she is a female. Both she and the calf likely traveled from Florida to Cuba because calves depend on their mothers for 1—2 winters O'Shea et al.
These sightings represent direct evidence of connectivity between two geographically separated populations, and two, independent immigrations within a decade i. Increased connectivity in the Caribbean region engenders important ramifications for conservation, especially selecting the optimal number of management units and incorporating source-sink dynamics into decisions about levels of protection Pulliam, ; Lowe and Allendorf, Figure 1. Permissions shown on photographs.
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Several challenges prevent a full interpretation of the importance of these sightings. Demographic connectivity requires the migrants to exert an effect on vital rates in the population they enter Lowe and Allendorf, Unfortunately, there is no information on the fate of the manatees that reached Cuba. In addition, the size of the Cuban population of T. Programs to address these issues would advance conservation of the Antillean manatee.
For example, rigorous censuses of manatees in Cuba would provide an estimate of the size of the population, and a program that involves professional and citizen scientists in the development, maintenance, and application of a photographic identification system would help identify additional immigrants and clarify their fates. Regardless of the fate of the recent immigrants, the two sightings suggest that the regional significance of Florida's population of manatees may be increasing as numbers around the state rise and the availability of suitable habitat and food decreases Littles, Overall, effective conservation of T.
This article was based on photo-documented observations only. There was no direct handling or manipulation of animals. The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest. The reviewer LC and handling editor declared their shared affiliation at the time of the review.
Many thanks to the people from the Almendares River community who informed us about the manatee sighting promptly. We are grateful to A Ruiz Abierno who obtained and provided the video taken in Cuba. We also thank Sea to Shore Alliance for supporting manatee conservation in Cuba.
Status and conservation of manatees in Cuba: historical observations and recent insights. First report of a Florida manatee Trichechus manatus latirostris in Cuba. Federal Register Federal Register: the daily journal of the United States, Fed. Washington, DC. Accessed 29 April, Garcia-Rodriguez, A. Phylogeography of the West Indian manatee Trichechus manatus : how many populations and how many taxa?
Hunter, M. Low genetic variation and evidence of limited dispersal in the regionally important Belize manatee. Puerto Rico and Florida manatees represent genetically distinct groups.
Littles, C. Lowe, W. What can genetics tell us about population connectivity?
Nourisson, C. Evidence of two genetic clusters of manatees with low genetic diversity in Mexico and implication for their conservation. The proverbial sweet spot is bound to be discovered in a space somewhere between unlimited licensing and a complete vertically integrated system.
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