[MARMAM] new paper on 2nd population of Steller's sea cows

Chris Parsons ecm-parsons at earthlink.net
Mon Dec 8 15:55:31 PST 2014

Dear Marmammers,


Announcing a new paper just published in Biology Letters:

 <http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/11/20140878> Rewriting
the history of an extinction¡ªwas a population of Steller's sea cows
(Hydrodamalis gigas) at St Lawrence Island also driven to extinction?

Lorelei D. Crerar, Andrew P. Crerar, Daryl P. Domning, E.C.M. Parsons



The Kommandorskiye Islands population of Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis
gigas) was extirpated ca 1768 CE. Until now, Steller's sea cow was thought
to be restricted in historic times to Bering and Copper Islands, Russia,
with other records in the last millennium from the western Aleutian Islands.
However, Steller's sea cow bone has been obtained by the authors from St
Lawrence Island, Alaska, which is significantly further north. Bone identity
was verified using analysis of mitochondrial DNA. The nitrogen-15 (¦Ä
15N)/carbon-13 (¦Ä13C) values for bone samples from St Lawrence Island were
significantly (p ¡Ü 0.05) different from Bering Island samples, indicating a
second population. Bone samples were dated to between 1030 and 1150 BP
(approx. 800¨C920 CE). The samples date from close to the beginning of the
mediaeval warm period, which could indicate that the population at St
Lawrence Island was driven to extinction by climate change. A warming of the
climate in the area may have changed the availability of kelp; alternatively
or in addition, the animals may have been driven to extinction by the
expansion of the Inuit from the Bering Strait region, possibly due to
opening waterways, maybe following bowhead whales (Balaena mysticetus), or
searching for iron and copper. This study provides evidence for a previously
unknown population of sea cows in the North Pacific within the past 1000
years and a second Steller's sea cow extirpation event in recent history


Link: http://rsbl.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/11/20140878





Associate Professor

Department of Environmental Science & Policy, MSN 5F2, George Mason
University, Fairfax 22030, USA


Conference Chair and Governor, Society for Conservation Biology


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