The fossilized remains of a 20-foot sea creature have been found on one of the remote Russian Commander Islands. The animal’s large bones were jutting out of the seashore and after an eight-hour dig, scientists unearthed 45 vertebrae, 27 ribs, a left scapula and other bones, according to the Daily Mail. The head of the creature was missing though.
According to The Daily Mail, the bones belonged to an extinct animal known as a Steller’s Sea Cow.
When they roamed the seas, sea cows would have grown to have been about 32 feet long and weighed up to ten tonnes. They were strong swimmers and lived off of the grass on the sea floor.
These animals were named after German explorer Georg Steller who first recorded their existence during an expedition in 1741. After they were marooned on Bering Island, Steller and his crew would kill the sea cows who were easy to hunt because they traveled in herds and did not fear humans. One of these animals could sustain 33 men for a month.
Steller documented the animal’s habits and population number. He estimated that 1500 or fewer lived in the waters around the island.
The sea cow population was decimated by hunting, unfortunately. The last sea cow was hunted in 1768 only 27 years after it was first discovered by humans.
As BBC Earth notes, the sea cow was a part of a group of mammals known as the Sirenia. The name comes from the Greek mythological term for mermaids, sirens. Manatees are also part of the Sirenia mammalian group.
The Steller sea cow was much larger than the manatee, however.
As Atlas Obscura reports, researcher Marina Shitova was doing a regular survey at a beach on Bering Island when she saw the bones projecting out of the sand “like a fence.” Even though the head is missing, Shitova and her team estimate the creature would have been almost 20 feet long.
According to Atlas Obscura, Scientists found a full sea cow skeleton on the same island back in 1987. The bones are now on display in the Aleutian Museum of Natural History in Nikolskoye, a town on Bering Island.
[Featured Image by Hutchinson, H. N. (Henry Neville) | Wikimedia Commons | Public Domain]