Antillean manatee Trichechus manatus manatus (Sirenia: Trichechidae) as a motile ecosystem of epibiont fauna in the Caribbean Sea, Mexico

Marco Violante-Huerta, Raúl Díaz-Gamboa, Uriel Ordóñez-López


The study of epibionts allows inferring ecological, biogeographic and health aspects of the host species (basibiont), and their study on marine mammals is scarce.  The aim of this work was to characterize the epibiont fauna associated with the skin of captive individuals of the West Indian manatee in three sites from the Mexican Caribbean.  In autumn 2014, 22 dorsal skin scrapings were collected from 11 captive manatees.  The biological material was scraped off the skin with a blunt spatula, covering 100 cm2 of sampled area of the dorsal skin of each manatee.  Samples were immediately fixed in 8 % formalin solution and placed in labeled vials for laboratory analysis.  We used specialized literature to identify epibionts at the lowest taxonomic level possible.  A total of 1,353 individuals from 31 taxa were found, belonging to eight phyla.  Twenty nine taxa are new records of epibionts from Sirenians.  The nematodes Monhystera sp. and  Rabdolaimus sp., the adult and larvae of copepods from the Order Harpacticoida, the foraminifer Ammonia sp. and the rotifer Lecane sp. were the dominant epibionts.  These new interactions may suggest that in the Caribbean Sea, the manatee skin represents a nutrient-rich substrate for an opportunistic fauna that is more diverse than previously estimated. 


diatom, invertebrates, manatee, marine mammals, Mexican Caribbean, opportunistic fauna, symbiosis.

Full Text:



Bledsoe, E., K. Harr, M. Cichra, R. Bonde, and M. Lowe. 2006. A comparison of biofouling communities associated with free-ranging and captive Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Marine Mammal Science 22:997-1003.

Bonde, R., P. Lewis, D. Samuelson, C. Self-Sullivan, N. Auil, and J. Powell. 2005. Belize Manatee (T. manatus manatus) Epibionts-SEM Viewing Techniques. Sirenews 43:17.

Campos, A., and E. Suárez-Molares. 1994. Copépodos pelágicos del Golfo de México y Mar Caribe, 1. Biología y Sistemática. Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología/ Centro de Investigaciones de Quintana Roo. Chetumal, México.

Deutsch, C. J., C. Self-Sullivan, and A. Mignucci-Giannoni. 2008. Trichechus manatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2008: e.T22103A9356917.

Fernández, L., J. Parapar, E. González-Gurriarán, and R. Muiño. 1998. Epibiosis and ornamental cover patterns of the spider crab Maja squinado on the Galicians coast, Northwestern Spain: Influence of behavioral and ecological characteristics of the host. Journal of Crustacean Biology 18:728-737.

Franckovich, T., M. Sullivan, and N. Stacy. 2015. Three new species of Tursiocola (Bacillariophyta) from the skin of the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus). Phytotaxa 204:33-48.

Halvorsen, K., and E. Keith. 2008. Inmunosuppression cascade in the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris). Aquatic Mammals 34:412-419.

Humes, A. 1964. Harpacticus pulex, a new species of copepod from the skin of a porpoise and a manatee in Florida. Bulletin of Marine Science of the Gulf and Caribbean 14:517-528.

Huys, R. 2016. Harpacticoid copepods-their symbiotic associations and biogenic substrata: a review. Zootaxa 4174:448-729.

Liria-Loza, A. 2011. Ecosistemas errantes: epibiontes como indicadores biogeográficos de tortugas marinas en Canarias. Tesis Doctoral. Universidad de Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. España.

Morales-Vela, B., E. Suárez-Morales, J. Padilla-Saldivar, and R. Herad. 2008. The tanaid Hexapleomera robusta (Crustacea: peracarida) from the Caribbean manatee, with comments on other crustacean epibionts. Journal of the Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom 88:591-596.

Ortiz, M., A. Álvarez-Alemán, and J. Angulo-Valdés. 2010. Dos nuevos registros de Crustáceos asociados a la piel del manatí Trichechus manatus (Chordata, Mamalia, Sirenia) de la región noroccidental de Cuba. Revista de Investigaciones Marinas 312:91-95.

Railkin, A. I. 2004. Marine Biofouling: Colonization Processes and Defenses. CRC Press. Washington, U. S. A.

Suárez-Morales, E., B. Morales-Vela, J. Padilla-Saldivar, and M. Silva-Briano. 2010. The copepod Balaenophilus manatorum (Ortíz, Lalana and Torres, 1992) (Harpacticoida), an epibiont of the Caribean manatee. Journal of Natural History 44:847-859.

Violante-Huerta, M., and E. Suárez-Morales. 2016. The epiphytic copepod Metis holothuriae (Edwards, 1841) (Harpacticoida) a new epibiont of the Caribbean manatee. Crustaceana 89:639-644.

Wahl, M., and O. Marck. 1999. The predominantly facultative nature of epibiosis: experimental and observational evidence. Marine Ecology Progress Series 187:59-66.

Wahl, M., and K. Hoppe. 2002. Interactions between substratum rugosity, colonization density and periwinkle grazing efficiency. Marine Ecology Progress Series 225:239-249.


  • There are currently no refbacks.



Therya is published by the Asociación Mexicana de Mastozoología A. C., the Mexican Association of Mammalogy  It is distributed under  Licencia de Creative Commons Atribución-NoComercial-SinDerivar 4.0 Internacional

COPYRIGHTS AND TRADEMARK, THERYA is a quarterly publication edited by the Asociación Mexicana de Mastozoología A. C.  Hacienda Vista Hermosa 107, Colonia Villa Quietud, Coyoacan 04960.  Distrito Federal, México.  Telefono (612) 123-8486, Editor-in-chief: Dr. Sergio Ticul Álvarez Castañeda ( Reserves of Rights for Exclusive Use No. 04-2009-112812171700-102, ISSN: 2007-3364, both granted by the Instituto Nacional de Derechos de Autor. Responsible for the latest update of this issue: Unidad de informática de la Asociación Mexicana de Mastozoología A. C.  Dr. Sergio Ticul Álvarez Castañeda.  Instituto Politécnico Nacional 195.  La Paz, Baja California Sur, C. P. 23096.  Tel 612 123 8486.