Stellar’s Sea Cow, Stories, Myths, & Their Connection With Now Extinct Animals

November 6, 2016 in Animals & Insects

The Stellar’s Sea Cow was an enormous marine mammal related to the manatee and to the dugong that live until very recently — until ~1772 or so. Following “discovery” in 1742 they were subsequently hunted to extinction over the course of only 3 decades.

For those wondering, the species was named after its “discoverer” Georg Wilhelm Steller. Notably, Stellar himself died (in Siberia) only a few years after making it off the island where he “discovered” the animals, while shipwrecked there with his crew for 9 months.

The Steller’s Sea Cow (Hydrodamalis gigas) was an enormous animal, considerably bigger than even the largest West Indian Manatees — growing to reach lengths of 26 to 33 feet (8 to 11 meters), reportedly. Modern estimates suggest that adults could reach weights of between 8 and 10 tons. Some individuals may well have been larger though. It’s been classified within Sirenia.

Sea cow Stellar's
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Manatees — Description, Pictures, Behavior, Lifespan, & Folk Stories

October 29, 2016 in Animals & Insects

Manatees are a type of very large, long lived, and intelligent marine mammals that live primarily in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea, the Amazon Basin, and West Africa. The 3 species are: T. manatus (Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea), T. inunguis (Amazon Basin), and T. senegalensis (West Africa).

While often solitary, they are also known to congregate in large numbers in shallow waters at certain times of the year. They often perform regular migrations from coastal estuary waters deep into inland river systems. This is especially true of the subspecies that inhabits the waters off of Florida (T. manatus latirostris). This subspecies makes regular migrations into the Crystal, the Homosassa, and the Chassahowitzka river systems, amongst others.

Manatee swimming

Amongst the notable qualities of the manatee, are a number that are nearly unique amongst mammals — including the fact that manatees have only 6 cervical vertebrae (possibly due to mutations in the homeotic genes). The only other mammals to only have 6 cervical vertebrae are two-toed and three-toed sloths.

Manatees are also one of the only mammals to exhibit polyphyodonty — a process whereby teeth are continuously replaced throughout life, with new teeth growing at the rear and falling out at the front, like a conveyer belt. The only other mammals to exhibit polyphyodonty are elephants and kangaroo. (Manatee have no canine or incisor teeth.)

And, perhaps most strangely, manatees are the only animal of any kind that’s known to have vascularized cornea.
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Googly Eyed Stubby Squid — Facts, Video, & Photos

October 29, 2016 in Animals & Insects

The Googly Eyed Stubby Squid is a type of stubby squid — which is a group of cephalopods (order Sepiolida) that are closely related to cuttlefish, and are also known commonly as bobtail squid or dumpling squid — that has a very distinct look to it. The eyes really say it all as far as the name is concerned.

In common with other stubby squid (bobtail squid), the species possesses no cuttlebone, and has a rounder mantle than cuttlefish do. They possess 8 suckered arms, two tentacles, and probably look a fair bit like an octopus to many people. Most species are fairly small, as one can see in the photos and video below.

The Sepiolida cephalopods live mostly in the shallow coastal waters of the Pacific Ocean, portions of the Indian Ocean, and, to a lesser degree, in shallow waters off the west coast of South Africa.
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Gastornis — Giant 6-Foot Tall Flightless Bird That Used To Live In The Arctic Circle

February 12, 2016 in Animals & Insects, Fossils

While it’s long been known that at various points in the past the Arctic (and the Arctic Ocean) has been considerably warmer, and home to animals such as crocodiles, camels, tropical birds, etc, there is still quite a lot that remains unknown about the past history of the region. The recent discovery of fossil remains of a giant 6-foot tall flightless bird known as Gastornis — a relative of similar birds mostly known from fossil remains found much further south — is a case in point.

Picture a giant, likely very loud, bird with a head the size of a horse’s and a beak big and powerful enough to crack your skull open… Walking around during the 24-hour daylight of the Arctic midsummer. Or perhaps during the permanent midnight of the Arctic winter (which was still quite a warm season, at the time).

Tall flightless bird

Quite an image right? The past was quite strange — probably far more so than people can today readily imagine (or maybe remember is a better word?).
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Jaguar Cat — Animal Facts, Images, & History

March 15, 2015 in Animals & Insects

The jaguar (Panthera onca), is a very large species of cat native to the Americas. While there were a number of large cat species present in the Americas up until the end of the last ice age, most of these disappeared many thousands of years ago — the jaguar is one of the only ones remaining, and the only Panthera species native to the Americas in recent times.

The species actually, until only very recently, had a much more expansive range though — and was found as far north as Missouri and as far east as Louisiana until relatively recently. The southern borders of the jaguar’s range in South America have receded in recent times as well, retracting to the species’s densest populations in the Amazon.

Jaguar river swimming
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