The enormous creature, which looked like a cross between a manatee and a walrus, was found in the Bering Sea between Russia and Alaska.
The skeleton discovered was almost 20ft long, and local officials found 45 vertebrae and 27 ribs.
The massive aquatic mammal—between 5 and 10 tons in weight and up to 30 feet in length, with the face of a walrus and the tail of a dolphin—had once ranged across the North Pacific but was by then relegated to a relic population in the Commander Islands kelp beds. Steller was the first and last scientist to document the slow-moving sea creature—they were hunted to extinction less than three decades later.
This week the surpassingly rare bones of a Steller’s sea cow were discovered and excavated on Bering Island, the larger of the two Commander Islands. As explained in a statement by from the Commander Islands Nature and Biosphere Reserve, researcher Marina Shitova was walking on the beach as part of a regular survey when she spotted several ribs sticking up from the ground “like a fence.” Shitova and her team waited for the weather to clear before beginning a four-hour excavation of the skeleton. The skull was missing, but the scientists estimate the animal had been nearly 20 feet long.
The last full skeleton of a Steller’s sea cow had been found on the same island way back in 1987, and is now in the Aleutian Museum of Natural History in Nikolskoye.
The British Journal Editors and Wire Services