Brooke L. Palmer; Joseph J. Torres; Molly R. McLaughlin
University of South Florida, College of Marine Science, Saint Petersburg, FL
Enteric bacteria of hindgut digesters may provide insights into the gastrointestinal and overall health of the individual. Characterizing the fecal flora of healthy animals enables researchers and animal care staff to identify potential pathogenic or abnormal bacteria while treating sick or rehabilitating injured animals. The purpose of this research is to identify the gut flora of wild Florida manatees (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and develop a better understanding of their gastrointestinal health and how it may relate to the overall health of the animal.
Fecal samples were collected from 34 wild Florida manatees during routine winter captures in southwest Florida. Each sample was preserved using Starplex semisolid storage agar. Storage of samples ranged from two hours to ten days. Fecal samples were then cultured aerobically and anaerobically at 35°C. Following isolation, bacterial colonies were identified using API analysis.
Preliminary data suggests that approximately sixteen species exist in the gut of then Florida manatee. The most commonly identified species are Escherichia coli, Aeromonas hydrophila, and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Additionally, several "uncharacteristic" bacteria have been found e.g., Vibrio Alginolyticus, Edwardsiella tarda, and Citrobacter freundii.
Following the complete characterization of the gut flora from wild Florida manatees, we plan to collect and examine fecal samples from captive and rehabilitating manatees in several zoos and oceanaria. We hope that comparisons between the wild population and those in captivity will contribute to our overall medical understanding of the species.