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Walrus

Updated on February 24, 2016

Scientific Name: Odobenus rosmarus

Walrus Description

 The Walrus can end up being a very large animal. They seem like they can barely get around at times, but you would have a problem too if you weighed 4,500 pounds. They do very well in the water though. It is mainly on land when they seem to be very awkward with their movements.

A walrus has some very distinct features that separate it from the species of seals out there. However, they do have many similarities when it comes to their habits and lifestyles. The skin on a Walrus is very thick as well as wrinkled. It also features tiny hairs that you have to look very close to see.

You may have noticed that Walrus are different colors when you look at them. This is because of the way their blood vessels change in size due to the temperatures. They are very light and pinkish when they are in the water. When they move from the water to land though they will become a dark pink or light red color.

Walrus Anatomy

 The most noticeable of all features on a Walrus are their tusks. They are amazing and be close to 12 pounds each. They are used to help them dig and to help them break thick layers of ice. They can even use them to climb when necessary, and they have the power to help them move without breaking off. Occasionally though a Walrus will break a tusk and that can mean death for it because of how much they rely upon them.

The teeth of the Walrus are very interesting. They don’t generally use them to do much with but to chew some types of food. Most of them time though they just suck their food out of the shells and swallow it though. There are rings that can form around the teeth, and these are an indication of how old it is. The more rings that are present the older the Walrus happens to be.

There are very thick layers of fat that are known as blubber on the body of a Walrus. This allows them to be able to survive in the colder areas where the temperatures can dip very low. They are able to swim in the water but they have to do so at a very slow pace. They don’t have the ability to go very fast!

They have both flippers and fins that help them to move in the water though. When they are on land they use the fins to walk on. You can imagine how strong these have to be to hold up the weight of a full grown Walrus. The fact that the don’t drag their bodies along the land is a characteristic that significantly separates them from the other pinnepeds out there.

Walrus Evolution

 We don’t have all of the details to know for sure what occurred with the Walrus a long time ago. There have been some fossils found in the area of California. This suggests that they once lived in warmer climates. It is possible that due to the Ice Age they had to be able to adapt to these colder temperatures. There are very good theories out there but the specifics of it all are still unknown.

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Walrus Behavior

 Since a Walrus is so large they need to be able to move easily in the water as much as possible. The spend less time on land due to the amount of energy that it requires for them to do so. They will spend many hours on the land though once they go there to rest. When a female is ready to give birth, she will also be on the shore for that event to take place.

All Walrus go though a molting period which requires them to stay on the shore for a length of time. This occurs in June and July and it allows them to get a new coat that is very thick. This will protect them over the harsh winter months that are ahead. They have to spend a long span of time on the land during this period of time. Heavy eating leading up to that point though allows them to have sufficient fat reserves that they can survive on. This is often a stressful period of time though where plenty of aggressive behavior takes place.

Most of the time though they seem to get along well in their colonies. The females are more passive than the males. They will communicate with loud sounds and they will often stand very close to each other. The males tend to be territorial by nature so they are going to do what they can to show that they are dominant over others. This is why small riffs break out and they will fight each other. However, they very seldom are able to hurt each other due to the thickness of their skin.

Walrus Habitat

The Walrus is only found today in the cold areas of the world. They live in the Arctic and sub Arctic areas where very little other animals of their size are found. They tend to live an isolated life too as there aren’t very many humans that want to move into those areas. You will find them around the Bristol Bay, St. Lawrence Island, and the Bering Sea. They are able to live where the water is cold and the temperatures are low due to their blubber and their thick fur.

The do have to migrate though in the winter months or they will starve. The layers of ice become too thick and that means they can’t move around as they need to. They also find that the food supply is very limited. They can go on a journey of 1,800 miles in some cases during this period of time. To help them gain speed and to conserve energy they often migrate by floating on the pieces of ice that are moving in the water.

Walrus Feeding Habits

 Mollusks are the primary source of food for the Walrus. They are able to suck the food out of the shells so they don’t have to waste time breaking them open. They will feed on what comes their way to help them conserve energy. Depending on the location as well as the time of year they will have access to shrimp, clams, crabs, and even snails. From time to time they will feed on small fish and small seals as well to ensure that they are able to get adequate amounts of food.

They are amazing when it comes to hunting for their prey. You may not realize that the Walrus has terrible eyesight. However, they make up for it with their whiskers that are highly sensitive to movements in the water. They can pick up the vibrations of food sources in the water around them. It can take several hours each day for them to consume all of the food that they need for survival.

Walrus Reproduction

 The dominant males are the ones that end up attracting the females for mating. They will fight each other for the right to be able to do so. The males will also make loud sounds to call to the females. Mating is in February and March but the female will prevent the embryo from meeting with the uterus until June. This allows them to help control the time of the year when they have their offspring. These young are born weighing about 140 pounds.

Walrus Predators

 There are some huge predators out there that will feed on the Walrus. They include the fast and powerful polar bear as well as the orca. The Walrus is just too slow to escape from either of them. Humans have created some serious problems for the Walrus in the past. Today though they seem to be doing well in their natural environment.

In some areas where they live, there are villages and the people there use the Walrus for food and to create things that they need. They are very skilled at using the skin and the body parts for many things. However, the illegal killing of the Walrus for their tusks is what almost brought them to extinction. Today that is a practice that is illegal and that has been significantly reduced in most areas.

 

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