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West Indian manatees have an important role in regulating vegetation levels in coastal rivers, inlets, bays, marshes and estuaries. Once widespread throughout the Caribbean, the endangered Antillean subspecies is locally extinct in many previously inhabited areas, existing in small and scattered populations. Unfortunately, causes of manatee deaths in the region are not well documented, making it difficult to develop strategies to protect these marine mammals. Researchers will determine causes of mortality in manatees living in Puerto Rico, a relatively populated region of the Antillean manatees’ range. The team will retrospectively review more than two decades of health data to provide a comprehensive view of factors that continue to threaten these mammals. Researchers also will conduct postmortem examinations, including laboratory tests for infectious diseases and parasites from collected samples. Findings will help establish how background health problems are impacting Antillean manatees and other subspecies to help guide management and conservation actions forthese understudied and endangered marine mammals. 

Study ID
Study Status
Start Date
Grant amount awarded
Grant recipient
Ross University
Study country
St. Kitts & Nevis
Mark A. Freeman, PhD
Study category
General Health