Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pygmy Sea Cow and Manatee news

Loren Coleman has collected two interesting related items. One is the discovery of a fossil dwarf sea cow, related to the immense Steller's Sea Cow but in the wrong hemisphere - near Madagascar, to be exact. Coleman wonders if occasional claims of primate-like sea creatures from this region, usually dismissed as mermaid-type legends, might have an origin in surviving or very recent examples of this species. Coleman also revisits Marc van Roosmalen's recent description of a living species, the Amazonian dwarf manatee. One expert looking at its DNA has rejected the 1.3-m species as merely immature examples of the known Amazonian manatee Trichechus inunguis. Van Roosmalen acknowledged a very close genetic relationship, but to him it showed only that the split between his T. bernhardi and the ancestor species had come recently (less than 485,000 years ago).

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