Hydrodamalis gigas (Zimmerman, 1780:426)

Steller's sea cow, Northern sea-cow



Taxonomy & Nomenclature

Synonym/s: Rhytina stelleri Zimmermann, 1780:426; Hydrodamalis stelleri Zimmerman, 1780:426; Hydromalis gigas Zimmerman, 1780:426


Conservation Status


Last record: 1768 (Goodwin & Goodwin, 1973Fisher & Blomberg, 2012)

IUCN status: Extinct


Steller's sea cow is one of the most famous recently extinct species, on account of both it's huge size (said to grow to 7m) and the speed with which it was driven to extinction (c.27 years, 1741-1768). However, there have been numerous reports of the species during the 19th and 20th centuries in Russian waters (Bord & Bord, 1989:300-301; Shuker, 1999:82-84). And although the species is unlikely to persist, these individual reports (Raynal, undated; Klumov, 1962; Berzin et al. 1963; Fairley & Welfare, 1987:104-105) should not be entirely rejected a priori. It is after all more probable that an animal of the size of Steller's sea cow could remain largely hidden in the world's oceans and seas than on land.



Bering Island


Biology & Ecology




Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology:

MCZ 59412


Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, Washington D. C.:

USNM 21966
USNM 218376
USNM 170761
USNM 181752
USNM 186807
USNM 23211

USNM 35638 (Pyenson et al., 2022)

USN218380 (Pyenson et al., 2022)

USNM 21258 (Pyenson et al., 2022)


Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, Seattle:

UWBM61309 (right rib)


Rosensteinmuseum, Stuttgart:

SMNS 31812
SMNS 31814


The University of Alaska Museum, Fairbanks, Alaska:

UAM Mamm 63998


Royal Museum, Edinburgh:

NMSZ1956.57.1 (composite skeleton)


Natural History Museum, London:

ZD 1984.2092 (composite skeleton)
C.1947.10.21.1 (two skulls)


For an excellent and very detailed list of material held in various collections around the world see Hans Rothauscher's website.



Source: Wikimedia Commons.



Original scientific description:

Zimmermann, E. A. (1790). Geographische Geschichte des Menschen und der Allgemein vernreiteten vierfüssigen Thiere, II. Weygandschen Buchhandlung, Leipzig. 432 pp.


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