Feb. 2, 2023



In this episode we talk about the Walrus! Relax, unwind, and join me in the Chukshi sea, where we learn all about the creature with nature's most fashionable moustache.


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hello everyone welcome back to relax with animal facts I am staff wharf and today I am going to be learning with you about our furry scaly or possibly even slimy friends and in today's case it is definitely going to be a mustache a friend of ours because we are covering the %HESITATION so wonderful walrus some animals just don't seem to fit either furry scaly or slimy and so you must wait to find out why they are our mustached friends this of course is a very special listener episode dedicated to Madeline who wrote in and requested to this amazing creature I believe it is increasingly more of a challenge to only have one person to shout out on a particular episode and so Madeline I hope you enjoy yours for how to request your very own episode and for all of the facts that were used in this one you can go to the show notes with a description where it is immediately available to you or you can wait until the end and which I will tell you all of these things if you want to start your very own podcast about animals or whatever it be I have written a book called anyone can talk which is available in the description you can also support the show through patrie on if you so choose and now let us begin to slow down a little bit we have to first do some preparation before we go straight into our journey as always I have three primary exhortations for you my first exhortation to you is to bring your favorite pair of winter boots as well as your favorite winter jacket we are definitely going to need those where we are going and the second thing I exhort you to do is to recognize perhaps where you are carrying tension this portion is so unique to everybody in the sense that somebody might notice that their shoulders are always up or maybe they carry tension in their hands like I do but regardless of where ever that tension is my exhortation is the same try to bring up your mind something of a piece of Jello and I encourage you to do your best to do a kind of Jello impersonation really shoot for an Oscar nomination here that is to say relax your body as best as you can I just find that Jello helps give almost a visual cue as to what we are exactly shooting for and lastly give your mind permission to wander and journey with me into the shallow continental shelf of the Chukchi sea where the walrus resides listen to the crisp crunching of the snow beneath your feet here the wind instrument that is the would be harsh arctic wind but to us maybe something like a summer breeze with all of our players on and what could make this natural orchestra better than the accompaniment of the bellows of the walrus we are where we are today because we are learning about the walrus and in specific the Pacific walrus this particular Walgreens has a wide range between Russia and the United States that being of course Alaska and we could have been nearer to the Laptev sea or to the Bering Sea and these are all wonderful places to visit but today we are in one of the most popular spots for the Pacific walrus we will cover the differences between the subspecies of walrus in just a moment but the reason we are here in particular is because it takes all of the boxes for the small ecological Manish in which the walrus thrives the love shallow water with depths of only about eighty meters or two hundred and sixty two feet and these shallow waters also supports a variety of food for the walrus including many kinds of mollusks and while the walrus will be spending most of its time in the shallow waters they also have a quick and reliable passage to the open water in case they need it there's also the benefit of having these sort of ice shelves were ice cheers that they can prop themselves up on that give quick and easy access back into the water in case they need to escape and so that is why we are here specifically but we could be in other places for example like Canada if we were to delve more into the Atlantic walrus we could go to Canada to Greenland to Norway and also to Russia but we must leave that for another time the creature we're looking at today has the common name of walrus which is the one that we all know and I dare say that we all know and love the scientific name perhaps sounds a little bit more cryptic at first but after a bit of explanation will make a lot of sense it is the auto Bennis rose Maris these of course are two Latin words but the Latin is coming from an earlier Greek auto Bennis is a compound of two different words one being tooth and another being go or to walk and all together the scientific name of the walrus means tooth walking sea horse I believe personally that the walrus is deserving of no less than this whimsical distinction have you ever thought about a walrus as a tooth walking sea horse well perhaps the researchers at first did and I have no problem carrying on that tradition the letter word of real small Russes one that was imported from a Scandinavian word rather than from a Greek word directly the Scandinavian peoples seemed to have called the walrus something akin to a red whale calling to their cinnamon color among certain walruses but not all of them the walrus is a mammal we take many of these words for granted select we just simply defined a mammal is a warm blooded vertebrates and vertebrates being an animal with a backbone and something is called a mammal when it has hair or fur and also able to give milk to their young and the last distinction of mammals is that they typically give birth to live young there are no eggs here or some other kind of process and so I hope that helps this animal is a powerful one they can weigh up to one and a half tons that's about two thousand pounds or just over nine hundred kilograms to ground to that in something we might know what that is about the weight of a small car this creature is not going to fit in a handbag and is much bigger than us they will be between seven point two five to eleven and a half feet in length the combination of their density end of their size in terms of their length makes them for quite an astonishing sight and so now that we have some of this general background information let's go a little bit deeper into what makes the walrus %HESITATION so wonderful the Pacific walrus that we are looking at more so today has a population size about eight times more than that of the Atlantic this doesn't seem to be because the Atlantic walrus has a smaller geographical range and so I'm not exactly sure why that is but walruses in general are typically a cinnamon brown color hence why maybe the Scandinavian peoples termed them read Wales but keep in mind that some of the ones we're looking at we'll notice or not exactly that cinnamon brown color some of them looked to be more of a white or even a pink color this will be because of different actors some of them will turn more white after they have just been diving some of them are paying because of how warm they are certain physiological and environmental factors can play into the color that we're seeing right now but will notice that due to heat or certain conditions that their color changes and so we know that this has something to do with their ability to differentiate or to vary their own blood supplies because of course with blood brings heat and so under certain circumstances where their political will change sometimes more to the peripheries giving them more of that pinkish color and sometimes more central giving them the more whitish or grayish color and one thing you will notice is that the size of their head is not all that proportional to their body their heads are in fact quite small but on this relatively small head they have these colorless whiskers and these very large tusks which give them most of their popularity so what exactly are these tasks four well their tasks will of course provide them with some kind of an advantage in the area in which they live their tusks will be used something like a pic is used if somebody were to climb the side of an icy mountain it will be used to hold their huge bodies outside of the water on to the land or the ice driving their tusks into the land gives them an anchor point by which they can pull themselves up of course reaching back to their scientific name of tooth walking see horses we can see why they would be given that distinction given this amazing behavior they will also do use their tusks to drive through the ice and give them a breathing hole they are these little arctic excavators maybe using the word little is not the right word but they are certainly arctic excavators the tusks are not specific to males or females butter found in both and given their smaller sized head relative to the rest of their body there are three foot tasks really steal the show the tusks are in fact large canine teeth that will continuously grow throughout their lives there is not a portion in which their tusks simply stop growing but rather it is one long continuous process that only stops once the animal is no longer living but given the sharp nature of their tasks they do not only usage to excavate and to prop themselves up onto the sea ice they will use their sharp tusks aggressively against one another specifically in defense of territories and this kind of behavior will peak during mating season in which males are competing with one another we'll get more into that in just a moment so we can see that their tusks are really great for where they are so let's get into one of their other very specialized features if I may be so bold I believe that the walrus has one of the most legendary mustaches in the animal kingdom now you might be surprised to find out that the mustaches are not just for making them terribly handsome but rather they serve a very important purpose and that is the purpose of detection as walruses will dive deep sometimes and the ocean gets darker and darker you're sensitive whiskers can be employed as these detectors not for metal or something else but rather they will give them extremely sensitive reception as to what is happening on the floor of the sea these extremely sensitive whiskers that they have are also cold buy a fancy name which is most spatial vai brief sigh discerning things in the darkness it's a lot easier when you have these whiskers the depths at which they will dive to will be up to eighty meters or two hundred and sixty two feet but the majority of their feeding will occur between ten and fifty meters which is about thirty three two hundred and sixty four feet they will tend not to dive to their capacity because of the energy that it takes and normally in the environment in which there in plenty of resources and food can be found before at that depth so while they will not employ their whiskers as much as long as they have their eye sight to rely on when it gets just a little bit too murky those mustaches will come in super handy once they have found some mold asks for example with the help of those whiskers they will use their front flippers almost as a broom to sweep away any soft material so then they are able to go in there and eat the meat that is inside the shell while this is a remarkable mechanism employed by the walrus I am glad it is not something we as humans need too much and dolce and I for one would be quite disturbed to see my father trying to navigate to the living room without the lights on using only his mustache and so I said okay and hopefully you say with me let us leave that to the walrus one other very specialized feature of the walrus is their capacity for slowing down their heart beats with a very slow heart beat they will be able to withstand colder temperatures of the surrounding water and be able to be under water for my much longer we learned earlier that they are warm blooded creatures well how of course we have to ask do they stay warm in order for warm blooded creatures to stay warm which the walruses and actually which we are is a continual process that uses the energy that we consume so to keep this process of keeping the blood warm there must be a continuous process also of eating so in order for this process of continuous warming to happen there must be also a process of continuous eating or ingestion of energy as well their body which is lined with blubber which is kind of a natural insulation one of nature's best for coats if we want to call it that a quips the walrus to really live in some of the harshest conditions on earth the coats that we are wearing now with her multiple layers are nothing in comparison to the insulated blubber that coats the entirety of the walruses body this is why they do not need to jackets and we do if we all had these huge stores of blubber I imagine living in places like Florida California or let's say even Spain would simply be much too warm if that were the case about eighty eight percent of Canada which is currently uninhabited would be much more habitat places like Canada which as it currently stands is around eighty eight percent uninhabited would be a much more comfortable place to live but as it stands in reality we are not aligned with such blubber stores and so people tend to prefer less of a very harsh climate no this may come as somewhat of a shock or a surprise but the body of the walrus is technically streamlined what I mean by streamlined is that their body it makes it very easy to swim and conserve heat at the same time this is due to the fact that walruses have a very small surface to volume ratio along with body parts that do not protrude every which way but rather allow them to collide quite easily in the water and all of the lives of the walrus are sleek and wept this keeps them feet or four limbs and hind limbs that are like that of wars that we might use in a canoe or a kayak so this up to one and a half ton creature can swim up to thirty five kilometers an hour around twenty two miles per hour if it has been startled and is fleeing one and a half tons of blubber and tusk zooming out of there so quickly this is what I mean by having a streamlined body and as we are staring at the walruses we ought to notice their form of locomotion or how it is they even move around on land well they are more like hind and fore limbs cannot be used to stand up right and so they moved in that very characteristic walrus like locomotive pattern which is like a thrust forward with their body in these short bursts or lunges and so they are essentially screeching or scooting forward and the reason they can do this comfortably is because also of that blubber that we learned about the blubber will not only act as a four cove or as an insulator for heat but it will also act something like pillows on the outside of their body we must remember that the environment in which they are throwing their bodies around is ice it can be sharp and on even at the heart and their blubber well cushioned them as they hit the ice with different parts of their body now this might not be the most energy efficient way of getting around but they have no other choice and must expend the energy in this way to get from point a to point B. while on land the walrus can live up to about forty years of age and as we scan the vast crowd of walruses now we may even be able to distinguish the age of an older walrus to a younger one this is because many of the older walruses will show their age physically these physical markers won't be things like wrinkles but rather scars that tell the story of their previous disputes with their fellow walruses as we learned before males during the breeding season can be quite violent to one another and so typically the more scars you see on a walrus are indicative of more battles more fights and so a higher H. and this arctic breeze has the potential to be very cold but as we are scanning this hurt we are actually taking one thing for granted and that is that they are in herds to begin with we have learned about many creatures that prefer more of a solitary lifestyle but the walrus clearly does not bunching up close together something like penguins can help them withstand those very cold temperatures and on a physiological level they can withstand freezing temperatures as low as negative thirty one degrees Fahrenheit or negative thirty five degrees Celsius I think there have been a few days in Canada in which the wind chill will reach that level but suffice to say that whenever there are days like that I just prefer to stay home one other thing that I took for granted was that the name of a group of walruses are cold a hurt when they congregate in these large numbers as they always do these are called herds and herds usually have some kind of a strict partition that segregates the males from the females each will have their own heard each will have their own group and the female walruses on the female side of the herd are very protective of their caps their calves or of course their baby walruses the mother walrus will pick up her calf in her flippers and then hold the calf to her chest tightly before diving into the water to escape any kind of predation it is very uncommon for a mother walrus to just escape without her calf this is because when they do have young they have them sparingly or fairly infrequently and so this child for the mother is very vital and she will feel the need to protect her offspring from whatever threats are in the environment as far as natural predators co workers and polar bears are really their only natural predators but outside of these natural predators come of course human beings which are the primary predators of creatures like this at least in a historical sense now was far as herds go the largest walrus herd in Canada occurs in the fox basin and so well right now we are in Alaska we don't need to travel that far to get to this place well today we are in Alaska on this continental shelf we'll be able to go see the mighty walrus so perhaps one day as a Canadian I will have to travel to see the mightiest walruses in Canada the last fact before the name of the walrus is a testament to just how much they eat in one single feedings session not a feeding season but one feeding session they will each between three thousand to six thousand clients they aren't and all you can eat a restaurant's worst nightmare and now let us move on to the name of the animal walrus what does that name mean or where does it come from it is today used to describe a large penny pad carnivorous mammal and that word has been used that way since the sixteen fifties and it comes from the Dutch word walrus and all of the roots seem to go back to a Scandinavian word of some sort coming from perhaps Old Norse Old English or Finnish but it seems to go back to an old Norse word which I will not even try to pronounce it seems clear that the Scandinavian peoples had a hold on the walrus before most of us did and the charity for this episode is actually two fold there are two separate charities in which you can quote on quote adopt a walrus but keep in mind when these websites say that you can adopt a walrus it is strictly a symbolic thing you are not adopting an actual walrus named to head for example but organizations or foundations like W. W. F. and the national wildlife federation has options for people to adopt a walrus basically after you give your donation that donation goes to the specific cause of helping walruses again that is W. W. F. or national wildlife federation so now let us move on to the review portion of the show this review comes from L. E. R. C. seventy four who is writing all the way from the United States of America I am just going to call this person lurk for short and lurk writes I can't do meditation podcasts and I like learning things from a podcast even when I'm trying to relax preferably spoken by a calm voice this checks every box and if I fall asleep even better it's the best talk to use the podcast and maybe you'll learn something love it keep up the hesitant whispering of facts please night tonight thank you lurk for such an abundance of kind words I am so happy that you enjoy the show and that it ticks every box for you I am grateful for your listenership and I will do my best to keep up my hesitant whispering of facts if the show helps you enroll and you want to give back to the show one of the biggest ways you can do so is by leaving a review it doesn't even have to be a five star review if you do not choose it to be so I have learned so much from the one star the two star the three the for all of your feedback in the things that you like and don't like about the show are very important to me and to the shows growth alternatively if you are listening on Spotify or on another platform in which you do not have a review button rating following subscribing or even sharing it to your friends or on social media these are all things that are truly make a difference in the growth of the show if you would like to request your very own episode you can do so by going to relax with animal facts dot com and clicking on the animal request tab to reach out to me Steph war for any other reason you can do so through the Instagram relax with animal facts or through the email relax with animal facts at G. mail dot com make sure to follow the Instagram because we have Instagram of vents in which you can even choose the next episode once a month we have live quizzes and different things like that so it is a lot of fun and I look forward to seeing you there if you want more episodes of the show and you want to support the show you can join the patron on relax with animal facts which is linked in the description what an amazing creature I have always heard about the walrus in passing and it is something that always struck up a bit of whimsy in myself and so I am glad that we got to cover it to today the facts that were used in this episode come from National Geographic dot com W. W. F. dot org resources dot arctic kingdom dot com Oceanwide dash expeditions dot com etim online dot com gifts dot world wildlife dot org and shop and W. F. dot org all of these are linked in the description of this episode and if you would like to learn more I encourage you to explore all of that content as without them this episode would not have been possible I hope that you will join me on the next podcast episode with the next animal take care