"Svalbard Walrus" Top 5 Page for this destination Svalbard Travelogue by maryellen50
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The Atlantic walrus (O.r. rosmarus) is found from the east Canadian Arctic eastwards to the Kara Sea. Population estimates 6,000 in the Norwegian and Russian seas.
Hunting of walrus in Norwegian waters (including the Norwegian Arctic) and the Russian western Arctic has been banned since 1952 and 1956 respectively, although there is some poaching in Russia, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. There are also reports of a trade in walrus calves as part of the Russian exotic animal market.
The species is mostly found in shallow continental shelf waters, usually less than 100m deep. Walruses prefer to haul out on first-year ice with open leads or areas of open water, and the species therefore tends to follow the movement of the ice limits. It is also quite common however for both subspecies to haul out on land. There is usually seasonal segregation, males and females feeding in separate areas during the summer.
When threatened, walruses vigorously defend themselves, their calves and often their colleagues. Walruses feed mostly on invertebrates that live in or on the bottom sediments, almost exclusively on bivalve molluscs, such as clams, when these are available. The species' diet also includes worms, sea cucumbers, snails, crustaceans, and occasionally seals. Fish are eaten only rarely and the taking of the occasional bird has also been observed. The walrus uses its stiff whiskers to locate its food, often feeding in total darkness in the winter. Any food requiring to be dug out from the sediment is either rooted out by the walrus by using its snout, by jetting water at it with its mouth, or by waving its front flippers. The maximum recorded dive for a walrus is a depth of 113m for almost 25 minutes, but individuals are thought to be able to dive deeper than this. Walruses, particularly calves, are preyed upon by polar bears and killer whales.
Walrus measurements vary between populations but in general there is no significant difference in the body size of male Atlantic and Pacific walruses, whereas female Atlantic walruses have been found to be significantly longer than their Pacific counterparts. Adult male Atlantic walruses measure 3m in length and 1,200-1,500kg on average (maximum 2,000kg), while adult female Atlantic walruses measure 2.7m in length and 600-700kg on average (maximum over 1,000kg). Calves of both subspecies are born measuring 1.2m in length and weighing 60kg on average. Females reach sexual maturity at 4-10 years, males at 6-10 years, although males cannot compete successfully for females until they are about 15 years of age. Walruses can live to be at least 40 years of age.
Walruses have special adaptations for diving. They have a larger percentage of blood in their bodies to carry oxygen – about 12 percent of their weight as compared to only 7 percent for humans. Also, their red blood cells (that carry the oxygen) are exceptionally large. In addition, they have lots of myoglobin in their muscles that can store oxygen. When they dive the blood flow is cut off from their skin, extremities and stomach. All of these adaptations allow for an efficient and lengthy use of oxygen stores.
Both male and female walrus have long ivory tusks, which are modified upper canine teeth. Male walrus tusks tend to be longer and thicker than those of females.
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