Monday, July 04, 2011

Don't ever fall asleep watching a sirenian eat!

I have a Belizean friend who says watching manatees is like watching grass grow!  BOREing.....

But in reality, watching most animals in the wild is pretty boring most of the time!  Then every once in a while, if you have 1000 hour eyes or are very lucky, you get to see something interesting.

This is a unique opportunity to watch some behavioral interaction between 2 dugongs at the Abu Dabab dive site near Marsa Alam, Egypt.  Watch till the end and remember:  Don't ever fall asleep watching sirenians eat!

Now, my professional analysis is totally different from what many other viewers have posted on this YouTube Channel.  I don't think the dugongs have "turned bad" at all.  I doubt that either dugong was reacting to the divers.  The 1st dugong in the video continues to feed even as divers hover nearby, only swimming away to take a breath and then returning to feed on the bottom.  This is what sirenians do: feed, feed, feed, take a breath, eat, eat, eat...for hours.  Then they sleep, sleep, sleep, take a breath, sleep, sleep, sleep...probably for hours...but when we catch them sleeping they generally wake up because they can detect our presence.  Based on what little we know about dugong behavior, I would suggest that they were reacting to each other.

For example, in Shark Bay Western Australia, dugongs demonstrate "lek" mating behavior (source:  Paul Anderson).  In that population, male dugongs patrol areas about 1km square, waiting for females in estrous to swim through and select a male for mating.  And males are known to defend their territories in Shark Bay.  My "educated" guess is that this male was doing what dugongs do most of the time, feeding on seagrass not caring in the least about the divers hovering above, when another male entered the area and was chased away.  But, I can only see the urogenital area of one animal:  the chaser.  And, I could be totally wrong, of course.  Who knows?  Another possibility is that one animal was a female and the other animal was pursuing her in hopes of mating!  We need much more time in the field observing and analyzing dugong behavior before we can interpret events like this one.  You can help us meet our goals through Sirenian International.  Check us out at and view other dugong footage at the "sassOn" Channel on

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