Hydrodamalis gigas

Steller's Sea Cow
(Hydrodamalis gigas)

syn. Hydrodamalis stelleri, Manati gigas


Bering Sea

local name: -

size: ca. 9 m (lenght)

extinction date: last seen in 1768

Compared to the still living sea cows Steller's Sea Cow was a true giant, when full grown it reached a lenght of up to 9 m!

It was also called Borkentier (bark animal), because its skin looked very similar to a oak tree's bark. The skin's strange appearance was caused by several parasitic crustaceans, which lived in the sea cow's skin and sculptured its surface.

In live Steller's Sea Cow was almost similar to the other still living sea cow species. The animals swam in family groups, floating trough shallow waters, always seeking for edible plants. Kelp probably amounted the biggest part of their food. Steller's Sea Cow was the only species of mammal known to consume these plants.

Steller's Sea Cows were hunted after some-one had detected that their fat was suitable for attendance of scurvy. The animals were easy overwhelmed, because they did not fled from people. Even when one animal was injured or killed, the others stayed with it and tried to help their dependant. In the end whole families were killed by the unrelenting hunters that way.


Steller's Sea Cow was discovered in 1741, in 1768 the last of its species was killed by a fur hunter.


Steller's Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas)

Depiction from 'Our Arctic Province : Alaska and the Seal Islands by Henry W. Elliot; New York, C. Scribner's sons, 1886'


Steller's Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas); scull

Photo: Alexander Lang