Posted by: adventuressetravels | September 6, 2011

Sex on the Beach

When I was 8 I adopted a manatee.  I had never seen one, never visited Florida, but somehow, eco-conscious child that I was, I had a strong desire to save this species.  Where I heard about manatees, I have no idea, but I saved my money and donated the funds to adopt my very own sea cow.  I guess some children save children in Africa, for me it was marine life.

Now, more than two  decades later, I find myself volunteering at Florida’s second most popular state park; a paradise for manatees.

My first day working in the Fish Museum, Barry, an enthusiastic volunteer with a thick mane of snow-white hair came into the gift shop where I was working.  Introducing himself he began singing the park’s praises talking of all the sea turtles off of the jetty that day, and that dolphins paid the park regular visits too, but that wasn’t what he was most excited about.

“Just last week we had five manatees mating up on the beach!” he informed me, in a delighted voice.

This was the water mammal that was once mistaken for mermaids.  Manatees lived in the water, ate and slept in the water, but now I come to find out they have sex on land?  They have sex on the beach?   It seemed strange, and five having sex?  Something didn’t sound right.

And so I did a little more research.  And uncovered the uncomfortable truth.

Yes, manatees did have sex on the beach, or at least in the surf, but it was by no means consensual.  Though they are sea cows and we view them as harmless, tranquil creatures, though to us they are, to other manatees they can be quite aggressive.

The sad truth is that when male manatees smell a female in heat they lose control.  It is not uncommon that a herd of males will pursue a hapless such female for sex, often driving her into shallow waters, and sometimes even up onto the beach.

Sex on the beach can be fatal.   When pushed into the unforgiving ground, the manatee’s huge mass, built for the gentle buoyancy of the water, can crush her soft internal organs, killing her.  Tragically the males have been known to continue having sex with the female corpse long after she has died.

After discovering this, the manatees’ sex on the beach did not seem nearly as entertaining and these gentle sea creatures I had worked to save as a child seemed significantly less benevolent.

Not that it is worse than some of the terrible things that humans do to one another but never the less, it was a shock.  They certainly didn’t put this behavior in the manatee literature I had received as a child.


  1. There are some sad tales about Mermaids out of their element. I think Mermen had a bad rep in classical mythology.

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