Relaxed yet irksome, graceful yet clumsy, gentle yet ferocious, the walrus (aiviq)
is a paradoxical animal that defies categorization. They can often be found packed like
sardines on ice floes, but that doesn't stop one from occasionally rising up and jabbing
his or her neighbor with a pair of ivory tusks. On land, these massive mammals (adult
males can reach 3.5 metres and 1,400 kilograms) move with the grace of three-legged
elephants, but in the water they are masterful swimmers.
Walruses dine extensively on clams, using their sensitive whiskers
to detect the unfortunate mollusks on the sea floor. An adult walrus eats as many as 3,000
clams each day, although they also eat other bottom-dwelling creatures such as fish,
crabs, worms and snails. Because they rarely dive deeper than 75 metres, walruses stay
close to shallow waters
. The walrus's most distinguishing feature is its tremendous
overbite. Both male and female walruses are blessed with these dentures. Despite their
Latin name, odobenidae ("those that walk with their teeth"), walruses
don't actually use their tusks for walking. Neither are the tusks used to dig up food. The
tusks, serving as a symbol of dominance or social rank, are also used to help animals haul
themselves from the water.
Walruses are restricted to Hudson Bay, the waters around Baffin
Island, and the High Arctic.
*Reproduced from an article titled "Marine Mammals" by
Mike Vlessides contained in the Nunavut Handbook.