Walrus Senses and Adaptations
Facts and Information
The walrus is fascinating, and a big part of their overall survival stems from the great senses and adaptations. They have excellent hearing, and the responses back and forth can be heard up to a mile away. This information is obtained from Eskimos imitating the sounds of the walrus and then getting a response from the animals.
While the walrus doesn’t have the best eyesight, and it is worse than other pinnipeds, they are able to rely on their other senses to be able to thrive. They don’t have to rely on vision to help them with finding food. They are able to determine the size and shape of objects using vibrissae. This is a tactile organ that transmits information to the brain.
Experts don’t believe that the walrus isn’t sensitive to touch. Yet there do seem to look for ways to enjoy physical touching with each other as part of their bonding. They have skin that is very thick and that could be why they aren’t sensitive to touch. Touching could be a way for the walrus to reduce the loss of heat from their bodies.
Even though the walrus does seem to prefer certain types of foods, they have fewer taste buds when compared to other land mammals. However, experts have also noted that these taste buds are larger. It isn’t fully know to what extend that affects how well they are able to taste.
The sense of smell is highly developed for the walrus. It is believed that they rely on it for mothers to identify their young. They also use it to realize when there are predators close to them. It is possible that smell also allow them to find the other walruses that have gathered for hauling out.
Since the walrus spends 2/3 of its life in the water, the ability to swim well is very important. They usually move around in the water at a speed of 4 miles per hours. When necessary such as to escape danger, they can move up to 22 miles per hour, but only for a very short period of time. The ability to propel themselves comes for the hind flippers, with alternating strokes. They also use their fore flippers to aid with the movement.
The walrus can remain under the surface of the water for up to 10 minutes. They will usually surface every 5 to 8 minutes to get air, and stay at the surface for about 1 minute. They will stay in the shallow waters, no more than 262 feet below the surface. They are bottom dwellers so they can get their food from the shallow areas of the water.
During a dive, the heart rate slows down. The blood is going to move away from the tissues and that allows more oxygen to reach the brain and the heart. The oxygen is stored in the muscles of their bodies. The pharyngeal muscles prevent water from getting into the trachea when they are under water and open their mouth.
The walrus uses both the mouth and the nostrils for breathing. The heat that is lost in the water from their body is 27 times faster than what they lose from the air when they are on land. They have layers of fat called blogger that help to insulate them. This is how they are able to withstand water temperatures as cold as -31 Fahrenheit if necessary. The blubber also makes it possible for them to conserve energy. They will increase the amount of blubber during the winter months, and it can be about 1/3 of their total body mass.