Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Steller's Sea Cow

As you know, I don't like water much, so I am not too terribly interested in things that live in the water, except for maybe fish, because our dog food is made of fish.  And the kind of fish it's mostly made of is herring and salmon.  But I'm not going to talk about fish today.  Instead, I am going to talk about Steller's Sea Cow, which was a great, big fat mammal that used to swim around in the ocean, but now it's EXTINCT.  Which is actually very sad because according to my in-depth research on the internet, the Sea Cow was very tasty, and just one of them could feed 33 men on a ship for one month at sea.

Of course, you are probably wondering who Steller is and why he named the Sea Cow after himself.  Well, it turns out that his whole name was Georg Wilhelm Steller, and he was a naturalist from Germany.  And in 1741, he was out sailing around on a ship with a guy named Vitus Bering, who had the Bering Sea named after him.    And while they were sailing around in the Bering Sea, which is kind of north of the Pacific, way over by Russia, they found these Sea Cows, and since Mr. Steller wrote down a description of them and also made a drawing, they got to be called Steller's Sea Cows.

The Sea Cows are part of a group called Sirenia, which also includes dugongs and manatees, both of which of still in existence.  If you ever read the Odyssey, by Homer, or saw the movie, you will know that there were these "sirens" that were singing on an island, and they were trying to lure Odysseus and his crew onto the rocks.  Well, if the sirens looked like Steller's Sea Cows -- which in my opinion are pretty ugly -- I can't see what the attraction was for Odysseus.

Anyway, Mr. Steller thought there were a whole bunch of Sea Cows, but later on, scientists figured out that there were probably only about 1,500 left at the time that Mr. Steller discovered them, so they were already in danger of being extinct.  And once the Europeans found out about them, they started hunting them and managed to kill them all off in only 27 years.

The Sea Cows were very easy to hunt because they just kind of bobbed around, eating kelp, and they were mostly happy, easy-going animals who didn't realize that humans were their enemies.  So the humans killed them and used their skins for boats and ate their meat and burned their fat in oil lamps.

Scientists who have studied the evolution of the Sea Cow say that it originally used to live in the warm waters near Peru.  And at that time, it had flippers and finger bones.  But as it evolved and moved north, it started just eating kelp, so its teeth turned into a couple of plate things that were good at crushing kelp.  Also its flippers turned into just these stubby armlike things, and it stopped diving down in the water because the kelp was all mostly at the top of the water, so there wasn't any reason to dive.

So anyway, that's pretty much the whole story of the Steller's Sea Cow, which became extinct in 1768.  But this might not be the end of the story, because there have been people saying they saw Sea Cows ever since Sea Cows supposedly went extinct.  Like for instance, on Bering Island in 1830, a naturalist from Poland said he saw Sea Cows, and in 1910, a Sea Cow might have washed up on the coast of Siberia.  Also some Russian sailors on a whaling boat said they saw several Sea Cows in 1962.  So this is kind of like what happened with Elvis Presley, where people are always saying they see him someplace, even though he is dead.

I had an idea that maybe we should ask Sarah Palin to keep an eye out for Steller's Sea Cows, because she can probably just see them from her porch, and if she was busy watching for them, it might keep her busy and out of politics.  Hahahaha!  Just kidding!


  1. Excellent suggestion, re: Sarah Palin. The woman needs a job!

  2. That's a very sad story, but I like to think they are still out there. Much like the Ivory Billed woodpecker or thylacines. Have you heard about the Black Footed Ferret? That's an interesting story.

    Oh, and here's something from today's news:

    I wish those news people wouldn't tell owners *everything*

    Your friend
    Zest, superstar in Training
    (mom says I still have to add "in Training" since I had a different agenda this past weekend)

  3. Dear Zest,
    I looked up Black Footed Ferrets and saw some photos of them. They are very cute. I didn't have time to read a whole bunch about them, but I will do that later. I also read the news story. You are right about those mean reporters who tell on us dogs if we sneak a little people food now and then. Humans really do not need to know about this. I don't know why they think that shelter dogs don't know how to steal food. A lot of shelter dogs were strays, so they got very good at getting food in all sorts of places.
    Your friend, Piper