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Scientific Classification
Em - Hydrodamalis gigas model












Hydrodamalis († is for extinct )


Hydrodamalis gigas

Steller's sea cow is a now extinct marine mammal, related to Manatees and Dugongs (which is a group referred to as Sirenia), a was a distant relative of elephants and all other members of Afrotheria. Although widely considered by the vast majority of scientists to be extinct, some cryptozoologists have considered it's current day survival. This idea of its persistence is predicated on the basis of a handful of sightings, which has gotten some people to theorize that it may still exist, or at least survived for longer than is currently accepted. Stellers sea cow was an animal of many adaptations which helped it survive in the extremely cold waters of the Bering strait. It likely eat kelp and other saltwater flora. The animal was quite large and would have had a tough hide.

Biology and History[]

Most known scientific description from when the animal was alive come from George Wilhelm Steller, who also give the animals common name after he's own. He did this to several other animals, like the Stellers sea eagle and another cryptid called the Stellers sea ape. A majority of he's findings were conducted during he's Vitus Bering voyage which ended in a shipwreck on the Bering islands (although Steller and the remaining crew got out alive by building a new boat).

Taxonomy and Naming[]

The Steller's sea cow belongs to the order Sirenia, and is considered to be apart of the family Dugongidae. Sirenians are related to elephants and shrews.

The species was given a scientific name by Prussian Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann (1743-1815).The name he used was Hydrodamalis gigas, this scientific name can be broken down into its greek and latin roots. The first term Hydro means "water" and the term damilis can be translated to tame. The species name gigas is mainly referring to the creatures size (this Latin root can be found in other scientific names such as Giganotosaurus).


The Sea cow was a bulky animal which was around 8-9 meters or 26 to 30 feet, that had the tail of a dugong

2880px-Hydrodamalis gigas skeleton - Finnish Museum of Natural History - DSC04529

A skeleton at Skeleton at the Finnish Museum of Natural History. Credit: Wikicommons, Uploaded to wikimedia and taken by Daderot

Steller's sea cow skull

A skull from the Natural History Museum of London Credit: Wikicommons, taken Maharishi yogi and uploaded to wikimedia by Funkmonk.

and the head of a average Sirenian. The animal is estimated to have weighed in at around 3991.6 kg or 8,800 lbs. Stellers Sea cow would have had a thick layer of outer skin (at around 2.5 cm) and it would have been more buoyant than other Sirenians. On average adult Stellers sea cow had fore limbs that would have been 67 cm or 26 inches in length. The just like the Dugong and all extant Cetacens, the animal had a forked tail.


Behavior and ecology[]

The Stellers sea cow was a very social animal, as noted an male stuck around the shore while his mate had been captured an killed, a behavior similar to cetaceans such Orcas (Killer whales). The animal feed (as stated before) feed on kelp and moved in small groups. It would have been a generally peaceful creature, just grassing around coastal waters. The animal filled the giant herbivore niche and was too large to bother from any prehuman, natural predators with the possible exceptions of Sharks (like the Pacific sleeper shark) and Killer Whales. It would have been a challenge for predators to drown it due to its bouncy. The animal might have been targeted by parasites like whale louses (in particular Cyamus ovalis) based on a description given by George Steller himself.

Evolutionary history and Prehistorical Range[]

The Sirenian branch is said to have evolved during the early Eocene, back then early Sirenians like Prorastomus (from the later parts of the Eocene) had fully formed legs and had yet to evolve the modern adaptations for a fully aquatic life style. Dugongidae (Steller's sea cow and Dugongs) had diverged from the Trichechidae (which became manatees) during Priabonian stage at the end of the Eocene and the start of the Rupelian stage of the Oligocene.

The modern day genus evolved during the Tortonian stage during the Miocene epoch (the first epoch in the Neogene). The first fossils found in Tortonian layers have been dated to around 10.3 mya in Phosphorite (a type of sedimentary stone with high amounts of Phosphate) . This genus would have lived all across the Pacific during the late Neogene and early Quaternary periods. There were many species that once belonged to Hydrodamalis, all of which went extinct, however the Cuesta sea cow evolved into the modern species and it remind a a sole survivor, one that made it to the a good portion of the Holocene. Fossils of the modern species appear at around Pleistocene to Holocene deposits in the Bearing Islands (Russia), Chiba (Japan), California (US) and Alaska (US). The oldest of these deposits is around 300,000 years ago (to compare, that is around the same time modern humans evolved in Africa). The animal shows a long range even after most of the other species went extinct. The animal was thriving.

Human Interaction and Demise[]


In terms of the grand geological scale, these animals success was short lived. It seems to have had a decline in its overall range sometime in it's history. When humans first found out about this creature it was relegated to a small strip near the bearing strait near Alaska (which really would not help it). It was hunted by native tribes and when Russian fur traders came to Alaska, to hunt otters for their fur, they used the sea cows as meat to survive on. The species was hunted down just a short few decades before its eventual extinction. Other factors such the hunting of otters caused environmental shifts due to the fact that the otters eating urchins that controlled algae, that caused havoc for the kelp that the Stellers sea cow was eating might have also been a cause for extinction. The species was described by notable German naturalist George Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746) , on a voyage to map out Alaska for the royalty of Russian Empire (1721-1917), the species was classified as extinct by another German naturalist in the 1800s, who said the extinction date was around 1768 based on reports during the 1700s that the species was becoming rarer.

Cultural deceptions[]

Stellers sea cow has made it in to the many pieces of literature outside of scientific circles such as the The White Seal by Rudyard Kipling and several pieces of folklore and poetry. There have been many cultural depictions through time.

Pallas Sea Cow

The Pallas Picture: this is the only surviving drawing of Steller's sea cow by Friedrich Plenisner, and possibly the only one drawn from a noted specimen (1840)

Sightings and Report validity[]

Em - Hydrodamalis gigas model

Model made by Natural History Museum of London. Credit: Wikicommons, taken by Emőke Dénes to the Wikimedia and last corrected A.C.Tatarinov

Reports that the creature had survived past the proposed extinction have been brought up in the past.

The more likely accounts come from the very late 1700s to early 1800s, however they would not have survived as the population would have not been enough to sustain such animals for an extended period of time.

Reports from the 1900s are even more unlikely as it is considered more likely that they were seeing Elephant seals.


Steller's sea cow rediscovery in

The supposed proof of a Greenlandic Sea Cow

Possibly the most recent report comes from the video made during the early 2010s claiming a population survived in Greenland, however this is considered unlikely as the creatures are only confirmed to have lived in the Pacific, nowhere near Greenland which, is in the Atlantic. Further, the pictures don't reveal much, just showing humps, which could be seals, rocks or even whales, but not sea cows.

Cryptozoologist, Anthropologist and Author, Loren Coleman has an explanation for Atlantic Steller's sea cows sightings. He has suggested that their range may have extended east - into the Arctic Archipelago, Baffin Bay, and Hudson's Bay (although not much evidence was given for such claims) -in order to explain a number of sea monsters said to resemble upturned boats, which tend to crash into kayaks. According to Dale A. Drinnon, reports of similar "upturned boat" sea creatures continue to emerge from the Chukchi and Laptev Seas, closer to the sea cow's known historical range. Up turned boats however can be still however be caused by a multitude of factors and there are large animals for example the afore mentioned Orca and other large marine animals of that area are not out of the question.

Field Investigations[]


A poster for the show

Forrest Galante (1988-present), a wildlife explorer has stated he may do an episode on the creature supposed continued existence on he's show Extinct or Alive as of 2020.

Sources and References (bibliography)[]


1.) Ann Forsten, Phillip M. Youngman, Hydrodamalis gigas, Mammalian Species, Issue 165, 25 May 1982, Pages 1–3,  (newer link

2.) Savage, R. J. G., et al. “Fossil Sirenia of the West Atlantic and Caribbean Region. V. the Most Primitive Known Sirenian, Prorastomus Sirenoides Owen, 1855.” Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology, vol. 14, no. 3, 1994, pp. 427–449

3.) Moore D.P. (2018) Sirenia Morphology. In: Vonk J., Shackelford T. (eds) Encyclopedia of Animal Cognition and Behavior. Springer, Cham 4.) Domning, Daryl & Thomason, James & Corbett, Debra. (2007). Steller's sea cow in the Aleutian Islands. Marine Mammal Science. 23. 976 - 983. 10.1111/j.1748-7692.2007.00153.x.


5.) Sheard, K. M. (2011) Llewellyn's Complete Book of Names for Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, Druids Llewellyn Worldwide, ISBN 9780738723686

6.) Kipling Rudyard (1893), The White Seal . ISBN 9780824965983 *note this is the 2006 ISBN

7.) Loker, Eric; Hofkin, Bruce (2015). Parasitology: A Conceptual Approach. New York, New York: Taylor and Francis Group. p. 293. ISBN . OCLC 929783662.


8.) ICUN

9.) PBDB


10.) Animal diversity

11.) NHM

12.) Wikipedia

13.) CNN (for the cetacean connection)


15.) Wikipedia

16.) Wikipedia

17.) Facebook


19.) Wikipedia

20.) Wikipedia

21.) Wikipedia


People Mentioned[]

Cryptzoologists, Biologist and the like included.

18th-19th Century[]

  • George Wilhelm Steller (1709-1746)
  • Eberhard August Wilhelm von Zimmermann (1743-1815)

19th-20th Century[]

  • Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)

20th-21st Century[]

  • Loren Coleman (1947-present)
  • Dale A. Drinno (1956-present)
  • Forrest Galante (1988-present)

Further reading[]