Assessing the body condition of wild animals is necessary to monitor the health of the population and is critical to defining a framework for conservation actions. Body condition indices (BCIs) are a non-invasive and relatively simple means to assess the health of individual animals, useful for addressing a wide variety of ecological, behavioral, and management questions. The Antillean manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus) is an endangered subspecies of the West Indian manatee, facing a wide variety of threats from mostly human-related origins. Our objective was to define specific BCIs for the subspecies that, coupled with additional health, genetic and demographic information, can be valuable to guide management decisions. Biometric measurements of 380 wild Antillean manatees captured in seven different locations within their range of distribution were obtained. From this information, we developed three BCIs (BCI1 = UG/SL, BCI2 = W/SL3, BCI3 = W/(SL*UG2)). Linear models and two-way ANCOVA tests showed significant differences of the BCIs among sexes and locations. Although our three BCIs are suitable for Antillean manatees, BCI1 is more practical as it does not require information about weight, which can be a metric logistically difficult to collect under particular circumstances. BCI1 was significantly different among environments, revealing that the phenotypic plasticity of the subspecies have originated at least two ecotypes-coastal marine and riverine-of Antillean manatees.
© 2021. The Author(s).