Walrus Communication: An Overview

11 min read

Walruses, a fascinating species of marine mammals, communicate with each other using a variety of methods. Communication plays a vital role in their social interactions, helping them coordinate activities, establish dominance hierarchies, and maintain group cohesion. Through a combination of vocalizations, body movements, and tactile interactions, walruses are able to convey important messages and maintain social bonds within their communities.

Vocalizations form a significant part of walrus communication. They produce a wide range of sounds, including clicks, whistles, and growls, which are believed to serve different purposes. These vocalizations can be heard both above and below water, allowing walruses to communicate effectively in their aquatic environment. In addition to vocalizations, walruses also use various body movements to convey messages. This includes head bobbing, flipper waving, and body postures, which can signal aggression, submission, or even courtship. Alongside these visual cues, tactile interactions such as nuzzling and physical contact are used by walruses to reinforce social bonds and establish dominance relationships within their groups. Understanding the intricacies of walrus communication is a fascinating area of research that continues to intrigue scientists who study these remarkable marine creatures.


Walruses communicate with each other primarily through vocalizations. They produce a variety of sounds using their larynx, which is located in their throat. These vocalizations serve various purposes, including social interactions, mating displays, and maintaining group cohesion.

One of the main vocalizations made by walruses is called the “roaring” or “guttural” call. This is a low-frequency sound that can carry over long distances underwater. Male walruses use this call to establish and defend their territories, as well as to attract females during the breeding season. The roaring call is characterized by deep, resonant tones that can be heard by other walruses several kilometers away.

In addition to roaring, walruses also make a range of other vocalizations. They can produce short, sharp barks, which are often used during aggressive encounters or to alert others of potential danger. Walruses may also emit various types of grunts, clicks, and bell-like sounds. These vocalizations are used for communication within social groups, such as coordinating movements during foraging or signaling their presence to other group members.

Walruses have well-developed hearing and are capable of distinguishing different vocalizations. They are sensitive to both underwater and airborne sounds, allowing them to communicate effectively in their marine environment. Through their vocalizations, walruses can convey information about their identity, social status, reproductive condition, and intentions to others in their group. Overall, vocalizations play a vital role in the communication and social dynamics of walruses.

Tusks For Communication

Walruses communicate with each other primarily through a combination of vocalizations and body language. However, one interesting aspect of walrus communication is the use of their tusks. Tusks play a crucial role in the communication process of these marine mammals.


Walruses have long, ivory tusks that are actually elongated canine teeth. These tusks can grow up to three feet long in males and slightly shorter in females. Tusks are used by walruses in various ways during communication. One important function is to establish dominance and hierarchy within their social groups. Male walruses, especially dominant ones, use their tusks to display and intimidate subordinate individuals during aggressive encounters. They may lift their heads, revealing their tusks, and thrust them forward to assert their dominance.

Tusks also have a role in mate selection and courtship behavior. During the breeding season, male walruses use their tusks to attract females and impress potential mates. By displaying their tusks prominently and making other body movements, males can communicate their strength, fitness, and availability to potential partners. These displays often involve head movements that allow the tusks to catch the light and create visual signals.

Furthermore, tusks can be used for communication during feeding events. Walruses use their tusks to break through ice to access their preferred food source, which is typically mollusks and clams on the seafloor. By using their tusks, walruses can communicate their foraging locations and activities to other members of their group, helping them to find food and stay together.


Body Postures As Signals

Walruses communicate with each other through various body postures, which serve as signals for different purposes. These signals are an important part of their communication system and are used to convey information to other walruses in their social group.

One such body posture used by walruses is the head bobbing behavior. This involves rhythmically moving their heads up and down while in the water. This signal is often used during aggressive encounters or to establish dominance within the group. The frequency and intensity of the head bobs can convey information about the individual’s strength and social status.

Another important body posture is the tusk display. Male walruses have large tusks that they use for various purposes, including communication. They often raise their tusks in the air, sometimes curling them, to signal aggression or to establish territory. The size and orientation of the tusks can provide information about the individual’s age and strength.

Furthermore, walruses use body postures to communicate during mating rituals. Males display their size and strength by puffing up their chests, making themselves appear larger to attract females. Females also use specific postures and movements to indicate their readiness to mate, such as lifting their hind flippers in the air. These body postures are crucial for successful reproduction and maintaining social bonds within the walrus population.

Chemical Signals

Chemical signals play an important role in the communication system of walruses. These signals are used by walruses to convey information and communicate with each other. Through the release and detection of specific chemicals, walruses are able to exchange messages related to various aspects of their behavior and reproductive status.

One way walruses use chemical signals is for social recognition. They can identify members of their own social group by recognizing the specific odors emitted by each individual. This recognition allows walruses to form and maintain social bonds with their group members, which is crucial for their survival and overall social structure.

Chemical signals are also utilized by walruses during courtship and mating. Both males and females produce pheromones, which are chemicals that trigger sexual attraction and influence reproductive behavior. By detecting these pheromones, walruses can determine the availability and receptiveness of potential mates, aiding in the selection of suitable partners for breeding.

Furthermore, chemical signals serve as territorial markers for walruses. Males, in particular, use specific scents to mark their territories and establish dominance. By claiming and defending their territories through chemical communication, walrus males can maintain control over resources and successfully compete for mates.

Overall, chemical signals are an essential component of the communication system in walruses. Through the detection and interpretation of these chemical cues, walruses are able to recognize individuals, attract mates, and establish territorial boundaries, contributing to their social interactions and reproductive success.

Vibrations In Water

Walruses use vibrations in water to communicate with each other. Vibrations in water can be transmitted both through the medium itself and through solid objects that are in contact with the water. Walruses have specialized adaptations that allow them to detect and interpret these vibrations.


Walruses have highly sensitive whiskers called vibrissae, which are connected to an extensive network of nerves. These vibrissae can detect subtle changes in water pressure caused by sound waves or vibrations. When walruses vocalize, their vocalizations create sound waves that travel through the water. These sound waves cause the water to vibrate, and walruses can pick up these vibrations through their whiskers.

By sensing these vibrations, walruses can communicate with each other over long distances. They can make different types of vocalizations, ranging from low-frequency rumbles to high-frequency clicks. These vocalizations can convey information about their location, individual identity, or reproductive status. Other walruses in the vicinity can pick up these vibrations through their own vibrissae and interpret the messages being sent.

Overall, walruses use vibrations in water, detected through their vibrissae, to communicate with other members of their species. This unique adaptation allows them to effectively navigate their underwater environment and maintain social connections within their groups.

Eye Contact For Communication

Eye contact is a crucial aspect of communication among walruses. It plays a significant role in conveying various messages and maintaining social connections within their communities. When two walruses engage in eye contact, it serves as a form of non-verbal communication that helps establish a shared focus and understanding between individuals.

One function of eye contact in walrus communication is to establish dominance or submission. By making direct eye contact, walruses are able to assess each other’s size, strength, and intent. This enables them to establish a hierarchical structure within their groups, which is important for maintaining order and reducing conflict.

Additionally, eye contact is essential for signaling intentions and establishing social bonds. Through prolonged eye contact, walruses can convey friendliness, trust, or aggression towards one another. This allows them to coordinate their actions, engage in cooperative behaviors, or signal their desire to avoid confrontation.

Furthermore, eye contact also plays a role in communicating emotional states. Members of walrus communities can gauge each other’s emotions by observing their eye movements and expressions. For example, dilated pupils may indicate heightened arousal or aggression, while soft and relaxed eyes may convey a sense of calm and contentment.


Social Behavior And Communication

Walruses communicate with each other through a variety of methods. One common form of communication is vocalizations, which include a range of sounds such as growls, roars, and bell-like calls. These vocalizations can be used to convey information about individual identity, reproductive status, and aggression. Another important method of communication among walruses is physical displays. This can involve posturing, where they stretch their bodies, inflate their throats, or raise their tusks, to express dominance or submission. Physical displays can also include tactile interactions, such as touching flippers or rubbing against each other. Additionally, visual communication is important for walruses. They have a well-developed sense of sight and can use body movements and eye contact to communicate intentions and social interactions. For example, a dominant walrus might make direct eye contact with a subordinate to establish its status. Overall, the social behavior and communication of walruses plays a crucial role in maintaining social hierarchies, mating rituals, and group cohesion. It allows them to coordinate activities, establish dominance, and facilitate mating within their groups.

Hunting Strategies Based On Communication

Walruses, like many other animals, have developed hunting strategies based on communication. They use various vocalizations and physical gestures to communicate with each other during hunts. This communication is essential for coordinating their movements and increasing their chances of success in capturing prey.

Walruses primarily communicate underwater, where they rely on a combination of vocalizations and body movements. They produce a range of sounds, including clicks, whistles, and bell-like sounds, which are likely used to convey different messages to their fellow walruses. These vocalizations are produced using their vocal cords and are often accompanied by physical movements, such as head shaking or body posturing.

One of the main purposes of communication during hunting is to coordinate group movements. Walruses typically form hunting groups, called herds, where they work together to search for and capture prey. By communicating with each other, they can efficiently surround and corral their prey, increasing their chances of a successful hunt.

Another important aspect of communication during hunting is the sharing of information about the presence and location of prey. Walruses may use vocalizations and body movements to signal the presence of prey to their group members. This information allows the group to focus their efforts on the specific area where the prey is located, increasing their efficiency and reducing the time and energy spent on unsuccessful hunting attempts.



In conclusion, walruses employ several methods to communicate with one another. One of the primary ways they communicate is through vocalizations, which consist of a variety of calls, growls, barks, and whistles. These vocalizations serve various purposes, including maintaining social bonds, coordinating group movements, and warning others of potential dangers.

Additionally, walruses also rely on bodily gestures to convey messages. This includes postures, head movements, and flipper slapping. These physical signals are important in displaying dominance, initiating interactions, and expressing aggression or submission. The use of tactile communication, such as touch and body contact, is also essential for establishing social relationships and facilitating group cohesion among walruses.

Overall, the complex communication repertoire of walruses enables them to effectively interact and thrive in their social environment. Understanding these communication strategies not only enhances our knowledge of their behavior but also emphasizes the importance of protecting their habitats, as disruption or degradation of their environment can have significant consequences on their ability to communicate and function as a cohesive social group.

You May Also Like

+ There are no comments

Add yours