The Whisker Chronicles

Whiskers are also known as vibrissa, from the latin vibrare "to vibrate". Vibrissa are the specialized hairs on mammals and the bristlelike feathers near the mouths of many birds. Their resonant design is symbolic of the energies, good and bad, that are reverberating throughout the natural world. Every living thing is connected and, by birthright, deserves to exist.

Day Eleven of Twelve Days of Arctic Animals: Walrus

Bull Walrus. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Bull Walrus.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Scientific Name:  Odobenus rosmarus

Odobenus rosmarus is Latin for “tooth-walking sea-horse”.  Walruses use their tusks to haul out onto pack ice and it looks like they are walking on their tusks.

Where Walruses Live: 

The three subspecies of walruses all live in Arctic regions.  Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) live primarily in the Bering Sea. Atlantic walruses (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) live in the eastern and western Atlantic Ocean. Laptev walruses (Odobenus rosmarus laptevi) live in the Laptev Sea. Walruses prefer shallow waters for easier access to food.

Range map obtained at Canadian Geographic.

Range map obtained at Canadian Geographic.

What Walruses Eat: 

Walruses eat small invertebrates, mostly bivalve mollusks. They occasionally eat seals and seabirds.

How Long Walruses Live:  30-40 years

Why Walruses are Awesome:

To locate food, walruses use their vibrissae (whiskers). There are 400-700 snout vibrissae attached to muscles and supplied with blood and nerves. A walrus moves its snout through bottom sediment to find food, taking in mouthfuls of water and squirting powerful jets at the sea floor to excavate clams.  Since walruses are large but eat very small food, they must eat large quantities to meet their calorie requirements.  They may actually consume 3,000-6,000 clams within a single feeding and dives can last up to 30 minutes.

Why We Care about Walruses: 

Overhunting in the 18th century severely decreased walrus populations.  With governmental regulations, populations have improved but never fully recovered.  Indigenous people of the Arctic are still allowed, with regulations, to hunt walruses and use them for oil, ivory, and their hides. This is necessary for people of this region to survive.  Global warming is another threat due to decreasing the amount of floating ice available for feeding activities and nursing their pups.

Cow and pup. Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Cow and pup.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Check out just how tough it is on divers to get incredible footage of walruses foraging and feeding on the sea floor. Thank God for biophiliac adrenaline junkies! They get the first hand information that motivates us all to protect the natural world.

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This entry was posted on December 24, 2013 by in Arctic Animals, Mammals, Wildlife.
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