Second life of a manatee

You may have seen the newest addition to the tetrapod collection, a manatee skeleton, during the Open House (7-Feb) or read the previous blog post. Last Sunday the manatee was in the news again: reporters from the Columbus Dispatch had interviewed Andy Calinger-Yoak, EEOB Ph.D. candidate who articulated the skeleton. He told the detailed story of manatee Willoughby’s short life, how she was sent from St. Lucie River in Florida to the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium to recover from injuries from a boat incident, her death two years later and how she ended up well preserved in our museum collection. Andy took on the challenge, recruited a team of helpers and articulated Willoughby’s full skeleton so that visitors can learn about peculiarities of and adaptations to a manatee’s lifestyle.

You can read the full article and hear an interview with Andy here.

Andy talking about the manatee skeleton

Andy talking about the manatee skeleton


We did it again!

Our annual museum Open House was a success with over 2,800 visitors! It is great to see so many people interested in Natural History and visit our collections each year – thank you all for your support!

In the tetrapod collection, visitors could meet Willoughby, our manatee from the Columbus Zoo & Aquarium.

manatee skeleton

Anna Smith admiring the manatee

The skeleton was meticulously cleaned and re-assembled by Andy Yoak, EEOB graduate student; during the Open House, Andy tirelessly answered questions about the process of assembling a skeleton as well as the life history of manatees. Visitors could also see a short video documenting the process.

manatee skeleton

Andy Yoak explaining the manatee skeleton

Thousands of birds die each year when they collide with man-made structures, in particular windows. We encourage people to collect these dead birds and bring them to the museum so that we can prepare them into museum study skins, accession them to our collection and make them available to future research. Now we are giving these birds out for yearlong adoptions.

birds for adoption

Stephanie Malinich with birds for adoption

Some, like this House finch, have already found a supporter.

adopted House Finch

This House Finch has been adopted

If you would like to find out more about this program and adopt a bird please visit here.

Meet Willoughby, a Florida manatee

Thanks to Andy Yoak, graduate student in EEOB, we now have an articulated skeleton of a manatee on display in the collection! Visit her during our annual Open House on Saturday, February 7th (more information about this event soon!)

Willoughby, an 11-year-old female Caribbean manatee, was donated by the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium. The animal was rescued from the St. Lucie River in Florida after being struck with a propeller from a watercraft in June 1995.

Several bones of the skeleton were missing and we were able to 3-D print some of them and give Willougby a unique look. The assembly process of this skeleton has been captured with a GoPro camera and you can watch the video on YouTube.

skeleton of a Florida manatee

Note the part of the lower left jaw that was reconstructed through 3-D printing

lateral view manatee skeleton

Note the right shoulder blade which was reconstructed through 3-D printing

Cool facts about manatees

You may know  manatees under their alternate name sea cows which is inspired by their slow pace when grazing underwater. Powering themselves with their strong tails, manatees typically glide along at 5 miles/hr.  They eat water grasses, weeds and algae, and lots of them to keep up their massive bodies. An adult manatee weighs on average 800-1,200 pounds at a length of 8-10 feet and feeds 6-8 hours each day.

Despite their bulk, manatees actually have very little fat under their skin which makes them very sensitive to water temperature changes and intolerant to cold waters (below 68 degrees).

Boating collisions are the number one killer of manatees. They are killed by impact injuries from physical force of a boat traveling at a high rate of speed as well as by rotating propellers.

You can find more facts about manatees and how to help them survive here.  To see a life manatee, visit the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium.