Russian investigators found an immense extinct sea mammal buried in grounds of the country’s eastern coastline. The nature ministry announced this Friday that the remains are still intact and that this is an excellent finding due to the history of this species.

At the far-flung Commander Islands in the Bering Sea, the nature reserve officials reported that they had found the 20-foot (six meters) Steller’s sea cow completely covered under a bunch of sand. The body of the beast is practically untouched, and its 45 vertebrae, 27 ribs, a left scapula and other bones look like they’re from yesterday.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Ecology said in a statement that the investigators spent around four hours digging a few couples of feet and found the massive sea monster. The local officials first thought the ribs were a “fence” coming out from the sand placed to guide people to the beach.

Sea cow, Steller's sea cow, Sea mammal in Russia
The Russian investigators first thought that the ribs from the 20-foot sea monster were a “fence.” Image credit: Evgeny Mamaev/The Siberian Times

This species is known for being alive since the Pleistocene  an age that began around 2.6 million years ago and ended 11,700 years ago  until the 18th century. It was usually a target for harpoon hunters navigating the waters between Russia and Alaska, but some Arctic reports say that the beast didn’t use to fear humans before it disappeared.

“According to the fossil record, animals in the genus Hydrodamalis inhabited coastal waterways from Japan through the Aleutian Island chain to Baja California during the Late Miocene, Pliocene, and Pleistocene,” wrote researchers from George Mason University on the study.

The individuals were already decreasing when the first one was found

The sea monster used to measure around 30 feet (10 meters) of large and weigh up to ten tonnes. The species was known for its impressive ability of swimming and getting their food.

It belonged to a group of mammals known as Sirenia  a name which came after the Greek mythology creatures half humans and half fish. Its corporeal mass made the animal able to live in cold environments, but it also made it pretty slow to predators.

The Encyclopaedia Brittanica says the first of this sea mammal individual was found back in 1768  by a German scientist and explorer named Georg W. Steller while he was traveling through the North Pacific. Now, its only remaining relatives are the dugong and the manatee.

Sea cow, Steller's sea cow, Sea mammal in Russia
Sailors in Arctic water used to hunt this species. Image credit: The World of Animals

Scientists said that the number of this species’ individuals was already decreasing when Steller found the first. They estimate that there were at least 2,000 of these monsters still swimming through the Arctic sea.

Maria Shitova was the researcher who spotted the extinct animal at the bay. The nature reserve inspector said that the findings would be displayed on the islands after they’re completely analyzed. Scientists have not been able to find how old this creature is, but they assume is not very ancient after seeing how well conserved the bones are.

The last time that scientists found remains from a Steller’s sea cow was in 1987, on the same island, also by Russian investigators.

Source: Biology Letters