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See full details Description

These large marine mammals occur in the Arctic where they are well adapted to life in cold water. Their bodies are insulated with very thick skin over layers of fat known as blubber. They can make deep dives to more than 100 metres in search of food - mostly clams and crabs that live on the seabed.

Walruses detect prey with their sensitive whiskers and uncover burrowing animals from the seabed using jets of water shot from their mouth. They then suck the edible contents out of the hard shells, only occasionally crushing shells with their teeth.

Males are twice the size of females, weighing up to 2 tonnes, they also have longer tusks which are used if they need to fight. Males establish small territories on floating ice where they display and guard groups of females from the attention of other males. The females also give birth on the ice, but mating takes place underwater.

Walruses have been hunted for their meat, fat, skin and tusk ivory for centuries, but the greatest threat to their long term survival now comes from climate change and the melting of the Arctic sea ice that they breed on.

Record created 2011-02-26 by RSHEPHERD
Record last updated 2015-10-28 by JAW


Kingdom: Animals
phylum: Chordates (Chordates)
class: Mammalia (Mammals)
order: Carnivora (Carnivores)
family: Odobenidae (Walruses)
genus: Odobenus (Walruses)

polar; aquatic; continental shelf; saltwater: shallow ocean, ice floes, sandy beaches, rocky shores
Range & distribution
Arctic and sub-Arctic

carnivore: crustaceans and molluscs, especially clams
Social organisation

Endangered status
data deficient
IUCN entry
climate change; overexploitation

Diagnostic characteristics
morphology: tusks morphology: vibrissae (whiskers)
total body length: 2500 ‐ 3000 mm
Further reading
Wilson, Don E. and Reeder, DeeAnn M., eds. 2005. Mammal species of the world: A taxonomic and geographic reference. 3rd ed. Baltimore MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2142 (published in)