West Indian Manatees (Trichechus manatus) inhabit coastal, shallow waters of the western Atlantic, from south United States to north-east Brazil. Two subspecies are currently recognized: the Florida manatee (Trichechus manatus latirostris) and the nominate form, the Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus). In north-east Brazil, the bordering region between the states of Ceará and Rio Grande do Norte is a critical site for Antillean manatee conservation. It holds the world record for manatee calf strandings, representing the most significant population loss in the country.
On 25 February 2007, a fresh carcass of an adult female (total length: 3.18 m; estimated weight: 400 kg) was found stranded in Retiro Grande Beach (04° 38'7"S, 03°73'9"W) in the municipality of Icapui. It was recovered and necropsy examination was performed at the AQUASIS Rehabilitation Center. A hemorrhagic area in the muscular superficial layer near the third rib and right scapulae region indicating a massive trauma was found. Internal examination showed large amounts of blood clots in the whole body cavity indicating that probably the manatee was killed in a boat collision.
Both mammary glands were enlarged and milk flowed from the teats. A 3.2 ml sample was collected manually and kept in a glass tube. The sample was frozen at -20 °C and shipped on dry ice to the Food Analysis Laboratory, Department of Food Science, and Faculty of Food Engineering of the Campinas State University, Brazil. A VARIAN 3300 gas chromatograph was used and the compounds were separated in a carbowax capillary column. Given the small and unique sample, it was not possible to measure sugars and proteins concentrations.
The four most abundant fatty acids in the sample were capric acid (16.16%), lauric acid (29.97%), palmitic acid (13.56%) and oleic acid (12.06%). The remaining percentage of the sample was composed of fatty acids with 17C, 18C and long-chain fatty acids with 20 and 21 carbons, e.g., linoleic acid and araquidic acid. This sample contained fatty acids that were not found in studies with Florida manatee milk samples including araquidonic acid (20:4), eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5) and heneicosanoic acid (21:0). Even though this study was done with only one sample, these findings should be considered as a reference for further studies and comparison between the milk samples in both manatee subspecies as an important tool for orphaned calves' formulas.