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Introduction to Walrus

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You would have heard of several animals being hunted down for their flesh, teeth and other body parts. These are used to carve out decorative pieces, manufacture goods and even serve other industrial purposes. One among these is walrus. Residing in the arctic ocean, walrus are bulky. Let us provide you with complete insights about this animal, which currently has a population of just 230,000. To know the walrus' meaning, let’s learn more about them in-depth. 


What is a Walrus?

Walrus is also called Morse. They have two species, their scientific names being Odobenus Rosamarus and Odobenus Rosmarus Divergens. The various features of walrus that you must know about are as below:

  • They are huge sized mammals found in the arctic region. 

  • They consume only animals and hence are carnivorous. These include molluscs, sea cucumbers, shrimps, tubeworms, tunicates, crabs, coral, among other marine organisms. 

  • These mammals are very sociable and hence are found lying in the arctic circle in groups of hundreds with their companions. Their groups are called herds. 

  • Their behaviour is loud, bellowing and snorting at each other. During the mating season, they tend to be more aggressive. 

  • The average lifespan of these creatures is between 30-40 years. 

  • The height and walrus size can range somewhere between 7.25-11.5 feet.

  • They usually weigh up to 1.5 tons.

  • Walrus are currently on the verge of extinction, threatening their population to be less. 

  • The walrus has pink and brown hides. Their white tusks can easily distinguish them, flat flippers and bodies having blubber. They have greyish skin, which is covered with short reddish hair. This gives them a cinnamon colour. 

  • The males are bigger than the female walruses. 


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Tusks of Walrus

Tusks make the life of walruses relatively easier in the arctic. They have got the ‘tooth walking’ label because they use their tusks to move their bodies out of the frigid water. And even while inside the water, they use their tusks to make breathing holes. 

These are found in both females and males. They are large canine teeth that can grow up to three feet and constantly during their lifespan. Male walruses also use their tusks to maintain their territory, especially during the mating season, over harems. They also used them to protect themselves from predators. 


Arctic Adaptations

The walrus fish equally puts their other features to use. Their whiskers are extremely sensitive, called Mystacial Vibrissae. They use them as detection devices to find their favourite meals, especially shellfish. These mammals are able to live comfortably in the arctic region because of their blubbery bodies. To withstand the temperature of the polar regions, the walruses can also slow down their heartbeats. 


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Subspecies: Atlantic and Pacific

The walrus fish subspecies are divided on the basis of geography. The Atlantic walruses are found in the coastal areas from Northeastern Canada to Greenland. At the same time, the pacific walruses inhabit the region of northern seas, from Russia and Alaska. They do seasonal migration from the southern part of the Bering Sea (in this place, they are found in packs on the ice) to the Chukchi sea. 


Overhunting of Walrus Animal

Currently, the hunting of a walrus animal is only allowed for the native Americans. Over the past, the species has been threatened due to massive hunting. Back in the 18th and 19th centuries, the tusk, skin and oil of walrus were quite sought, leading to extinction due to hunting in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Sable Island. 


How and What Walruses Eat? 

They consume all sea animals; however, majorly their choice is of clam. They dive inside the shallow of the sea, looking for clams, through their sensitive whiskers, they can detect it. Once they find their food, they hold the clam’s shell with their lips and quickly withdraw them at the back of their mouths. In case they are trapped with ice, they even prey on seals. A walrus animal has the capability of staying inside the water for about 30 minutes.


Is the Walrus Animal Sociable? 

These are usually found in herds, both in ice and onshore. Their herds are mostly found in different sexes. During the mating season, the male walruses start fighting for dominance over their female counterparts. While sunbathing, the walruses gather in groups of hundreds and even more sometimes. In the case of a stampede, the walruses can crush the members of their own herd. 


What is the Speed of Walruses at Which they Move? 

Surprisingly, the walruses can move really fast on land. They can run at the speed of humans while running. They run on all four feet like dogs. On the other hand, while swimming, they glide through the water smoothly by using full-body movements. On average, the swimming speed of walruses is 4mph; however, they can increase their speed to 22mph. While the walruses in the Atlantic and Pacific sea migrate a lot, this is not the case with walruses in the Laptev sea. 


What are the Mating Rituals of Walrus Animals? 

The male walruses attain their sexual maturity around the age of seven years. However, they cannot dominate the other males until they reach the age of 15. On the other hand, female walrus attain sexual maturity very early, just around 4 years of age. 

During the months of January to March, the male walruses constantly fight with each other for dominance over the female ones. They also start swimming around the female ones, making vocal calls from their air sacs present beneath their throats. 

The females are pregnant for about 15 months before giving birth to the little ones. The calves of walrus weigh approximately 75 kgs and have the capability of swimming immediately. 


The Lifespan of Walruses

In the wild, the average lifespan of walruses is about 20-30 years. However, the maximum age they’ve reached is 40 years. 


The Population of Walruses

The number is not specifically known for now. But, approximately, their population is around 230,000. Their division according to regions is as follows:

  • Pacific walrus: 200,000

  • Atlantic walrus: 20,000

  • Laptev sea walrus: About 10,000


Predators of walrus

Since the walrus size is large, they have only two natural predators. These are, namely, Orcas and Polar Bears. However, the preference of both these predators is seals over walrus. All throughout history, humans have been the greatest hunters of walrus. The major reasons for which walruses were hunted include:

  • Meat: As a source of nutrition

  • Flippers: Consumed as a delicacy

  • Tusks and Bones: Tools, art and fashion

  • Oil: It was used as a source to generate light and heat

  • Hide: Boat coverings, ropes  and tarps

  • Intestine: Waterproof parkas


Taxonomy of Walrus

There are mainly three subspecies of walrus, namely, Atlantic, Pacific, and Laptev. The taxonomy of walruses according to the Integrated Taxonomic Information System (ITIS) is:

  • Animalia: Kingdom

  • Bilateria: Subkingdom

  • Deuterostomia: Infrakingdom

  • Chordata: Phylum

  • Vertebrata: Subphylum

  • Gnathostomata: Infraphylum

  • Tetrapoda: Superclass

  • Mammalia: Class

  • Theria: Subclass

  • Eutheria: Infraclass

  • Carnivora: Order

  • Caniformia: Suborder

  • Odobenus Rosmarus: Genus


Physical Characteristics of Walrus

Size:

The characteristics of size of walrus are as follows:

  • Male Pacific Walruses: Weight is 800-1700 kg. 2.7-3.6m length. 

  • Female Pacific Walruses: Weight is 400-1250 kg. 2.3-3.1m length. 

  • Atlantic Walruses: they have a slightly smaller size, having a weight of approximately 908 kg. 


Body Shape:

They have a round and fusiform shaped body. 


Colouration:

  • Even though they have a cinnamon colour, when they go inside the water, they appear pale. If they stay for a longer duration inside water, they might appear white. The circulation in their body increases during summers. 

  • During birth, the colour of calves is ash grey or brown. But, with age, their colouration pales away. 


Flippers:

  • Their limbs are adapted in the form of flippers. 

  • Their flippers are hairless. They have thick and rough skin on top of their soles. This provides them with traction on ice and land. 

  • The major skeletal elements of these mammals are present on pectoral flippers or fore flippers. The walrus has short and square-shaped fore flippers. 

  • When swimming, they keep the flippers close to their body to get a streamlined position making the swimming easy. 

  • However, while walking, their flippers are positioned at right angles. 

  • Their hind flippers are triangular in shape. They have five bony digits. 

  • To propel in water, they alternatively stroke the hind flippers. 


Head:

  • With the conspicuous whiskers and tusks, the shape of the walrus’s head is square. 

  • They have about 400-700 whiskers, which are attached to muscles, further supplied by nerves and blood. 

  • Walruses mostly have 18 teeth. Out of them, the two canines in the upper jaw are long ivory tusks. 

  • Tusks start coming out in calves during the first fall or summer after birth. 

  • In males, the length of tusks can be up to 100cm, while in females, it can be up to 80 cm.

  • The primary function that tusks serve is that of social dominance. 

  • They have small eyes which are located just on the side of the head. 

  • When resting, the nostrils of the walruses are closed. 


Tail:

Yes. Walruses have a tail. However, it is hidden under the sheath of skin. 


Skin and Hair:

  • The skin of these mammals is tough and thick. The thickest region in males is the neck and shoulders, protecting them from the attack of others. 

  • The male skin has large nodules, while the females don’t. 

  • The approximate length of hair all over the body is 7-12mm. 

  • The densest hair is those of juveniles, and they become less with age. 


Walrus Facts

Here are some of the amazing walrus facts that you must know:

  • The mother walruses protect their calves to the level best. In case of any threat, the mother picks up the calf and holds it close to her chest. 

  • You can hardly find walruses deep inside the water. They mostly feed on shallow waters on their food including shrimp, coral, sea cucumbers and others. 

  • Atlantic walruses show behaviour different to that of Pacific ones. They prefer resting on the shore instead of inside of the water. The key reason behind this is because the feeding grounds are mostly closer to land. 

  • The walruses are very sensitive to noise and disturbances. This makes them highly prone to indulging in stampedes during mass gatherings. 

  • In the present day, climate change is one of the greatest threats for these animals. This can lead to their high extinction. 

  • The bellow of a walrus can be heard till 1.5 km away. 

  • Since they have high metabolic rates, they are required to eat about 70 kgs of muscle every day. 

  • Two third of the lives of these mammals are spent inside water. 


Conclusion

The walrus is surely among the most important animals of the arctic and pacific. However, their population is on the verge of being threatened. This has happened because of historical overhunting and can be eliminated by bans of all sorts of hunting of these mammals. They are quite big creatures who are sociable in some scenarios, while aggressive in the other. You can get complete for and about the walrus meaning with the information provided above. 

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)

1. Which is the World's Largest Walrus?

Ans: The world's largest walrus till day has been Odin. It weighed around 3700 lbs. It arrived in Hamburg, Germany in 2013 in Hagenbeck Zoo from one of the zoos in Russia. It wasn't easy to please this one while feeding. When it was brought into the new zoo, special feeding instructions were given by its Russian keepers, Anna and Ivan Pavlov. 

2. What is the Approximate Size of a Walrus?

Ans: Both male and female walrus have different sizes. While the approximate weight of females is between 400-1250 kg, the males are heavier, having a weight between 800-1700 kg. 

3. Are Walruses Friendly in Nature?

Ans: Even though walruses are large animals, they are extremely friendly and smart. Generally, some of them are curious and won't attack humans unless they feel threatened. However, you must stay cautious when around one, they usually leave humans alone.