With males reaching over 3.5 metres in length and weighing up to 2000 kilograms, Walruses are among the world’s largest seals. Placed in a distinct family of mammals (Odobenidae) these highly social animals form tightly packed colonies that can number in the tens of thousands.
Walruses vary in colour depending on their activity. After long periods in cold water they appear pale grey but may turn pink or red when back on land as blood-flow to the skin increases. Their upper canine teeth form long ‘tusks’ used for aggressive displays, defence, making holes in ice and hauling themselves onto land.
Intense commercial hunting from the 18th to mid 20th century severely depleted numbers. Commercial hunting is now banned although harvesting by indigenous arctic communities is permitted as it contributes to the subsistence economy and helps maintain cultural identity. A reduction in the extent of sea ice due to climate change is likely to pose the most significant new threat to this species.
Distribution: Arctic and sub-Arctic
Conservation status: Data Deficient
Evolutionary distinctiveness: not assessed