A small crowd was treated to a rare sighting on a remote beach of Lido Key in Sarasota Bay recently when an aggregation of approximately 13 manatees congregated near shore (see accompanying video).
Mote Aquarium staff members were on site, after being alerted by other staff monitoring for sea turtle nests in the area. The Mote staff members were part of a team who document manatees in the area, and they used the opportunity to photograph the mammals and record information at close range. Scientists can identify individual manatees by the boat-strike scars and injuries on their bodies.
They indicated that the manatees were gathered near shore together because it is mating season.
They reminded onlookers to keep an appropriate distance and not disturb the mammals. When the manatees moved on, they thrilled the onlookers by swimming together in a big herd between the shore and the boats anchored nearby.
Since manatees are mostly solitary, the sight of so many congregating and then swimming away together was a glimpse into the unexpected wonders of the natural world.