STL Science Center

STL Science Center

19 January 2019

Animals Not Often Known

This week I decided that we really ought to get a little bit of knowledge into an odd group of animals that we have never looked at before. We have explored a lot of marine animals including fish, mammals, and reptiles. There is a set of aquatic mammals that we have not yet explored. This group of marine mammals is known, largely, today as the "sea cows." One of the genera that best represents the group is a globally known genus called Metaxytherium. The genus Metaxytherium consists of 8 species (M. albifontanum Vélez-Juarbe and Domning, 2014; M. arctodites Aranda-Manteca et al., 1994; M. crataegense Simpson, 1932; M. floridanum Hay, 1922; M. krahuletzi Depéret, 1895; M. medium Demarest, 1822 (type species); M. serresii Gervais, 1847 and M. subapenninum Bruno, 1839) represented from the Miocene into the Pleistocene. Dugongs, the family (Dugongidae) of organisms to which Metaxytherium belongs, is a capable of living in both marine (salt) and freshwater systems and Metaxytherium was not an exception with taxa being discovered in both coastal and inland fossil deposits. Metaxytherium looks, skeletally, very similar to extant manatees and dugongs; you can see the skeleton of M. floridanum below.
Photo by Ryan Somma

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