How Would You Characterise a Walrus? The walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is a big flippered marine mammal with a patchy distribution near the North Pole in the Arctic Ocean and subarctic seas of the Northern Hemisphere. In the families Odobenidae and Odobenus, the walrus is the only surviving species. O. rosmarus. rosmarus, the Atlantic walrus, O. rosmarus. divergens, the Pacific walrus, and O. rosmarus. laptevi, the Laptev Sea walrus, are the three subspecies that make up this species.
Walruses are sociable, generally long-lived creatures that are regarded as a “keystone species” in the Arctic maritime ecosystems. A number of indigenous Arctic peoples who killed walruses for their meat, fat, skin, tusks, and bone have also incorporated them prominently into their civilizations.
The enormous tusks of walruses, which are giant seals, are made of the upper canine teeth. The tusks, which may grow up to 70 cm (28 in) long, are used for digging out shellfish from the ocean floor. Herds of young bulls, cows, and calves are home to walruses. Old bulls dwell in distinct groups outside of breeding season. A walrus can be as heavy as a tonne.
The walrus has small eyes, a short nose, a large head, tusks, and flippers. Each of their big front flippers has five digits. Large tusks are a feature shared by males and females that are utilised for defence, emerging from the water, and breaking through ice. Both male and female walruses have these extended canines, which can grow to a length of 1 m (3 ft 3 in) and weigh up to 5.4 kg (12 lb).
Walruses are dark brown when young, and as they age, they become whiter and more cinnamon-colored. Particularly older men turn almost pink. The walrus can seem virtually white when swimming in cold water because skin blood veins constrict there. Males also develop large nodules, known as “bosses,” most commonly in the neck and shoulders. The air sac that walruses have under their throats functions as a flotation device and enables them to bob vertically in the water when they sleep.
On rocky shorelines and ice floes in the Pacific and northern Atlantic Oceans, walruses make their home. They spend the most of their time searching for food in adjacent ice floes and shallow waters. Walruses have travelled further south to Central Canada, the United Kingdom, and even close to the Spanish coast despite matching the icy northern temperatures.
Walruses are very gregarious creatures that live in enormous herds of up to thousands of individuals, mostly females with their young and a few dominant males. With their tusks, male walruses engage in combat to compete for females and establish dominance. They create a range of noises, including loud bellows from two air pouches in their necks. These creatures are nocturnal. They eat and rest on sea ice while they aren’t in the water.
Walruses favour shallow shelf areas and typically hunt on the ocean floor from sea ice platforms. Although they can dive to depths more than 500 metres, they are not very skilled divers when compared to other pinnipeds. By grazing along the ocean floor, seeking for and recognising prey with their sensitive vibrissae, and clearing the mucky bottoms with water jets and aggressive flipper motions, walruses find their favourite mollusks to graze on.
Walruses hunt other animals to survive since they are carnivores (molluscivores). They consume squid, various varieties of slow-moving fish, clams, snails, worms, octopuses, and snails. When food is limited, they will consume juvenile seal carcasses.
Male walruses mate with several different females because they are polygamous. Between January and March, there is breeding. Females give birth to a single pup after a gestation period of roughly 15 months. Calves can swim and range in weight from 45 to 75 kg (99 to 165 lb) at birth. Before weaning, the females milk their young for more than a year, but calves can stay with their moms for up to five years. For the first six months, they solely consume breast milk, after which they begin to consume solid meals. Males cannot procreate until they are 10 years old, but young females can do so at around 6 or 7 years old. However, male reproduction may be more successful at 5 years if a male has established his authority.
They are threatened by humans who hunt them for their hides, bones, tusks, and oil. In some regions, water contamination is also a hazard. Climate change, global warming, changing habitats, increased shipping, and the development of oil and gas resources are all potential concerns. Approximately 25,000 Atlantic and 200,000 Pacific walruses make up the walrus’ total population, which the IUCN estimates to be higher than 225,000 people. The IUCN Red List now rates this species as Vulnerable (VU).
In the marine ecosystems of the Arctic, walruses are regarded as a “keystone species”. They consume a broad variety of species, and the benthic communities they are a part of are significantly impacted by their foraging. The benthos becomes more patchy as a result of the foraging walruses’ disturbance of the seafloor, which releases nutrients into the water column and encourages the mixing and movement of numerous creatures.
Kids’ Fun Facts
Their massive teeth, which never stop growing, are known as walrus tusks.
Walruses use their tusks to propel themselves onto land.
Walruses have the capacity to hold their breath for up to 30 minutes while submerged.
When alarmed, walruses stampede towards the open water, occasionally trampling calf. This may be the reason why females and their calves create different herds.
Walruses have weak eyesight but a keen sense of smell and hearing.
Walruses use water jets that they shoot out of their mouths to dig out food such as clams, shellfish, and other items.
When a walrus hits the ice with its head, it breaks it. The entry point is then enlarged by the animal’s tusks.
Content for this question contributed by Toni Kimmel, resident of Conemaugh, Cambria County, Pennsylvania, USA