Atlantic Walrus | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Walrus

Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus

Also known as

Walrus

Distribution

Eastern Arctic

Écosystèmes/habitats

Shallow (80m or less), open water areas with soft sea floors close to land or pack ice

Feeding Habits

Foraging predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/data deficient

Taxonomie

Order Pinnipedia (seals, sea lions and relatives); Family Odobenidae (walruses)

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The Atlantic walrus is one of the most iconic marine mammals of the Arctic, thanks to its large, ivory tusks. These tusks are actually elongated canine teeth. Both males and females have them, although the males’ tusks are much longer. Walruses are very large: adult males weigh between 1,000 to 2,000 kilograms. Because of their size, they are rather clumsy and slow-moving on land, but in the water they have smooth and graceful swimming abilities. 

Walruses mate from late February to April; however little is known about their reproduction because they mate in the water – something that has proven nearly impossible to study. Males will chose and defend territories in the water, rather than on land. Fighting will occur between males over access to females and control of their territories. Males reach sexual maturity between seven and 13 years of age, while females reach maturity between five and 10 years of age. Females only give birth to a pup approximately every two to three years. Females will haul out on land to give birth to pups, either on pack ice floes or nearby land, congregating on these haul-out sites. The relationship between a female and her pup is very strong: mothers are very protective, nursing their young for 25 to 27 months. The bond between mother and pup continues during and after weaning, with females teaching their young how to dive and forage for prey. Walruses eat bivalve molluscs, such as clams, but they will also root around in soft sediment bottoms for other small invertebrates and fish that live in and on the ocean floor. They likely use their sensitive whiskers to find food, unearthing prey with their snout.