walrus

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walrus,

marine mammal, Odobenus rosmarus, found in Arctic seas. Largest of the fin-footed mammals, or pinnipeds (see sealseal,
carnivorous aquatic mammal with front and hind feet modified as flippers, or fin-feet. The name seal is sometimes applied broadly to any of the fin-footed mammals, or pinnipeds, including the walrus, the eared seals (sea lion and fur seal), and the true seals, also called
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), the walrus is also distinguished by its long tusks and by cheek pads bearing quill-like bristles. Adult males are 10 ft (3 m) long or more, and weigh up to 3,000 lb (1,400 kg); females weigh about two thirds as much as males. The tusks, which are elongated upper canine teeth, may reach a length of 3 ft (90 cm) in large males and weigh over 10 lb (4.5 kg). The hide is very thick and wrinkled, and is light brown and nearly hairless. Beneath the hide is a layer of fat several inches thick. Like sea lions, walruses can turn their hind flippers forward for walking on land; their foreflippers are weaker than those of sea lions and they are not as strong swimmers. They live in shallow water and spend much of the time on ice floes and beaches, where they congregate in herds of about 100 animals of both sexes. They can dive to a depth of 240 ft (70 m) to find food, relying primarily on touch; their diet consists chiefly of shellfish, especially mollusks. The cheek teeth are rounded and are used for crushing shells. Walruses use their tusks for prying shellfish from the ocean floor, as well as for pulling themselves up onto ice floes. The herds tend to follow the ice line, moving south in winter and north in summer. Walruses have been very important in the economy of the Eskimo, who hunt them for food and clothing; the introduction of firearms greatly increased the size of the kill. Commercial hunting of walruses for blubber, hides, and ivory has been extensive since the 16th cent. and has greatly reduced the walrus population. Several nations now have protective laws; Canada and Russia prohibit walrus hunting except by peoples for whom it is a traditional part of the economy. There are two walrus races, the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Atlantic race, formerly found as far S as Nova Scotia and occasionally Massachusetts, is now considered endangered. The walrus's nearest living relatives are the fur seals, with which it evolved from bearlike ancestors, the Enaliarctidae, in the N Pacific Ocean about 20 million years ago. Walruses are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Carnivora, suborder Pinnipedia, family Odobenidae.

Bibliography

See R. Perry, The World of the Walrus (1968).

Walrus

 

( Odobaenus rosmarus), the only species of the family Odobenidae of the order Pinnipedia. The males are up to 3.7 m long and weigh up to 1.5 tons; the females reach a length of 3.3 m and a weight of 1.1 tons. The skin is thick and folded, particularly on the neck. The hairy covering of young walruses is thick and brown; the hair of old walruses is sparse and yellow. The walrus has no external ears or tail. The hindflippers, which can turn forward under the body, serve for locomotion on dry land. There are between 18 and 26 teeth with flat chewing surfaces (to grind mollusk shells). The canines of the upper jaw are particularly massive and long.

The walrus is found in the polar regions. In the USSR it is encountered off the shores of Novaia Zemlia, near Franz Josef Land, and in the Laptev, Chukchi, and Bering seas. The largest walrus lairs are on Wrangel Island and along the shores of the Chukchi Peninsula.

Walruses feed primarily on benthic mollusks found at depths of 20 to 50 m. The gestation period is about one year. Newborn calves are 1–1.2 m long and weigh about 30 kg; they feed on milk for one or two years and are sexually mature at six or seven years of age. Walrus populations are very small everywhere. In the USSR walrus hunting is permitted only among the local population of Chukchi Peninsula.

REFERENCES

Mlekopitaiushchie fauny SSSR, vol. 2. Moscow-Leningrad, 1963.
DaVnevostochnye lastonogie. Vladivostok, 1966.

A. G. TOMILIN

walrus

[′wȯl·rəs]
(vertebrate zoology)
Odobenus rosmarus. The single species of the pinniped family Odobenidae distinguished by the upper canines in both sexes being prolonged as tusks.

Walrus

wept in sympathy for the oysters he and the Carpenter devoured. [Br. Lit.: Lewis Carroll Through the Looking-Glass]

walrus

a pinniped mammal, Odobenus rosmarus, of northern seas, having a tough thick skin, upper canine teeth enlarged as tusks, and coarse whiskers and feeding mainly on shellfish: family Odobenidae
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