SARASOTA (FOX 13) - A Bay Area boater has captured video of rare twin manatees with their mother in the water of Sarasota Bay. Karl Nelson said he decided to take a short break from working on his boat -- then it happened.
"I was looking around and it was so beautiful out. I decided I would take a video," he said. "The manatee popped up in front of me. I hit the button and filmed it. That was it. I had it and I was so amazed. I had goose bumps that I actually got it on video."
When he looked closer, he realized he captured a mother manatee and her two twin calves. He posted it on Facebook and the video went viral.
"I have over 378,000 views. Last time I checked, I had close to 4,000 shares," he said.
There is a reason why it has reached so many people. Twin births in manatees are very rare.
"It is about 1.4 to 4 percent of the cases where we see twins," said Mote Marine Laboratory spokesperson Hayley Rutger.
The video gives scientists an opportunity for scientists at Mote Marine Laboratory to learn more about manatees and their behavior.
LINK: Watch the full video
"We don't know too much about manatees with twins. We know its possible for a mom to support twins, but we don't know a whole lot about them in the wild," continued Rutger.
Scientists do know this manatee, though. Her name is Tomo-Bella and she has been around Sarasota Bay since 1993.
In 2012, she was rescued, nursed back to health at Lowry Park Zoo and then re-released in Sarasota after being treated for a flesh wound and red tide toxins. She has had eight calves before, but this is her first set of twins.
"We are really kind of happy just to see she is doing OK, contributing to her population and surviving out there," said Rutger.
While Mote Marine said it is too soon to name the calves, Karl has already picked his favorites.
"I'd like to name them Faith and Hope. Hope in mankind to make the world a better place for manatees and faith in mankind that man will make the place a better place for manatees," he said.
You can report sightings of the twins to Mote Marine by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org with "manatee twins" in the subject line. Scientists ask you include a photo or video, the date and time of your sighting and an address (or GPS coordinates) where the sighting was made.