Can you answer these walrus questions?
Grab your best stuffed animal friend and a notebook to use for this week’s activities–your safari field journal–and let’s get started! If you need help answering some questions, an adult can help you look for answers online.
- Where do walruses mainly live?
- What does this habitat look like? Draw it in your safari field journal!
- Could your stuffed animal friend live in this kind of habitat? Why or why not?
- What is one special adaptation walruses have to help them survive in their habitat?
- What do walruses eat? Are they carnivores, herbivores, or omnivores?
- Are walruses endangered, vulnerable, or something else? What does this mean for future populations?
The Atlantic Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) is an easily recognizable Arctic mammal due to their large ivory tusks. Both male and female walruses have tusks and use them to make and maintain ice holes and pull themselves out of the water. This is how the walrus gets its scientific name—odobenus literally means “tooth walk.” Male walruses will also use their tusks to fight.
Walruses search for food in the shallow waters along coastlines and prefer to eat bivalve mollusks (like clams), but are opportunistic feeders. This means walruses will eat whatever types of aquatic animals are available including crustaceans (like crabs), sea worms, and fish. Their special whiskers, called vibrissae, are blood-and- nerve fed, which make them more sensitive than the whiskers we see on cats, dogs, or rodents. Those sensitive vibrissae help them feel small animals on the sea floor when they are foraging.
Walruses are well-suited for their chilly habitat. A layer of blubber, or fat, keeps them warm, even when swimming in freezing water. That layer of blubber can be almost 4 inches thick! Their blood vessels near the skin also constrict, or become smaller, when they swim in cold water, which helps keep more warmth on the inside of their body. When on land, walruses like to cuddle together to stay warm, and this is why they are known for being friendly and agreeable, at least with other walruses.
The Atlantic walrus is considered “vulnerable” or “near threatened” which means that this species is not endangered, but the numbers of wild walruses are decreasing and they may become endangered if that continues. Threats to wild populations include habitat loss and noise disturbance from ships and airplanes—walruses get startled easily and can stampede if a loud noise disturbs them.