The manatees have spoken (well, decided, anyway): Their pick for Super Bowl winner is the Baltimore Ravens. Hugh and Buffett, resident manatees in The Aquarium at Mote Marine Laboratory, each selected the Ravens to win Super Bowl XLVII during their training session on Friday, Feb. 1.
Buffett has selected the correct team every year for the past five years. Hugh has been correct three times during the past five years.
The two marine mammals selected their team by swimming to special targets marked with team logos. Both swam right to the Ravens, and Buffett nudged it twice.
“They seem to have some ‘sense’ of how the game will turn out…or maybe they’re just fans of Baltimore,” joked Joe Gaspard, manatee care and training and research coordinator at Mote. “After all, they’re big fans of the Orioles that have spring training here in Sarasota.Aside from being sports fans, Hugh and Buffett are the world’s most highly trained manatees. Training helps their veterinary care run more smoothly and allows the two manatees to participate in innovative research about their senses of hearing, touch and other sensory abilities.
For more than 14 years, researchers at Mote have been studying how manatees perceive and navigate their underwater world, where boat strikes and other threats are common. Mote’s research is designed to help resource managers protect these endangered mammals.
Key findings show that manatees:
- Have poor vision and probably cannot see fine details.
- Have good hearing over a wide range of frequencies, including the ability to hear pitches produced by boat engines despite loud background noise, and have a strong ability to locate which direction sounds are coming from.
- Have a keen sense of touch using their facial whiskers.
Now, Mote scientists are investigating how the manatees use sensitive hairs all over their bodies to feel water movement — an ability that may be important for navigation.
The two manatees are on exhibit daily in The Aquarium at Mote, which is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 365 days per year at 1600 Ken Thompson Parkway in Sarasota. Hugh and Buffett live in the Ann and Alfred Goldstein Marine Mammal Center at 1703 Ken Thompson Parkway, just down the street from the main Aquarium parking lot.
Founded in 1955, Mote Marine Laboratory is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)3 research organization based in Sarasota, Fla., with field stations in eastern Sarasota County, Charlotte Harbor and the Florida Keys. Donations to Mote are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
Mote is dedicated to today’s research for tomorrow’s oceans with an emphasis on world-class research relevant to conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity, healthy habitats and natural resources. Research programs include studies of human cancer using marine models, the effects of man-made and natural toxins on humans and on the environment, the health of wild fisheries, developing sustainable and successful fish restocking techniques and food production technologies and the development of ocean technology to help us better understand the health of the environment. Mote research programs also focus on understanding the population dynamics of manatees, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and coral reefs and on conservation and restoration efforts related to these species and ecosystems. Mote’s vision includes positively impacting public policy through science-based outreach and education.
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