Rhytine de Steller
The Rhytine de Steller ( Hydrodamalis gigas ), so known under the name of cow of sea, was an enormous marine mammal, pertaining to the family of dugongidés, which lived in Arctic water close to the island Bering and the island Medny. The discovery of many fossils indicate that one found, before the appearance of the man, of the rhytines all around the coasts of the Northern Pacific, of the Mexico, with the Aleutian Islands and until the Japan. It disappeared at the 18th century, shortly after its discovery.
DiscoveredThe rhytine was discovered in 1741 per the surgeon and naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller, who belonged to the forwarding of Vitus Bering, a Danish explorer. This one had been charged by the Russian tsar with determining, by a forwarding, if the Alaska and the Siberia were or not connected between-them. It is at the time of this voyage that he discovered the famous strait which bears its name. At the time of the return, immobilized by the ice-barrier, Steller benefitted from it to observe the animals of the area. At this point in time he discovered this strange animal, strongly resembling the others siréniens but the proportions much more extravagant.
ExtinctionAt the time of the return of Bering in Russia, the news of the existence of an animal easy to drive out and which one could draw a considerable number of resources was propagated quickly and drawn the attention of the fishermen. The rhytine, which produced a milk considered delicious, and which one could draw from grease, oil and flesh of excellent quality, was driven out without mercy by the sailors, the hunters and the merchants of fur. Its grease was used as food, but also to make an oil of lamp which released neither smoked odor nor, and which could be preserved for a long time. At the time of its discovery, the populations of rhytines were already of small size and their limited geographical distribution. The animal which was very placid, one very long gestation period and which was slow to be driven, thus died out quickly, and in the 27 years space only the totality of its population (approximately 2000 individuals) was massacred. Many testimonys of people claiming to have seen rhytines for summer have recorded, which could let believe that small groups would have survived. Nevertheless, there is not concrete proof.
MorphologyThe rhytine could make up to 8 meters length and weigh nearly 11 tons, which made it much larger than his/her cousins the Lamantin and the Dugong. It resembled a little a giant Phoque, but its caudal fin was rather close to that of the Baleine. In front of the body, two members of small size were used to him to move. According to Steller its discoverer, his skin was very thick and of a black sheepskin, with some times of large spots clearer and equipped with many cutaneous folds, to which the rhytine owes its name (rhytine comes indeed from a Greek word meaning crumpling). It did not have teeth, but two large plates masticatrices in horn which were used to him to crush the Algue S of which it was nourished.
Like the others siréniens, the rhytine lived as a recluse or small groups.
Food modeThis animal was exclusively herbivorous, and nourished various algae pushing at a shallow depth.
MythsLike others siréniens, the rhytine could be at the origin of the marine myth of the sirens.
- Some illustrations
- complete Site in English
- would Rhytine have survived?
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