Walrus Communication: A Scientific Exploration

11 min read

Walruses, scientifically known as Odobenus rosmarus, are large marine mammals that inhabit the Arctic regions. These social creatures have developed various methods of communication to interact with one another. In this discussion, we will explore how walruses communicate with each other, focusing on their vocalizations and body language.

Walruses employ a combination of vocalizations and body movements to convey messages within their social groups. Vocalizations play a crucial role in their communication repertoire, and they can produce a wide range of sounds, including grunts, roars, growls, and bell-like barks. These vocalizations are used to express emotions, establish dominance, and signal warnings. Additionally, walruses rely on their body language to communicate effectively. They use elaborate postures, gestures, and physical contact, especially during social interactions and mating displays. By understanding the intricacies of walrus communication, we can gain insight into their social behaviors and the dynamics of their underwater world.


Walruses communicate with each other through a variety of vocalizations. They have a diverse range of vocal signals which they use to convey different messages and maintain social interactions. One of the most common vocalizations of walruses is the characteristic “roar”. This deep, loud call is primarily used by males during the breeding season to establish dominance and attract females.

In addition to roars, walruses produce a range of other vocalizations including clicks, barks, whistles, and screams. These vocalizations serve various purposes such as indicating aggression, expressing distress or pain, and signaling group cohesion. Vocalizations also play a role in mother-calf communication, helping them stay in contact and navigate their surroundings.

The intricate nature of walrus vocalizations is further enhanced by their ability to make different combinations of sounds, creating unique vocal patterns. This complex vocal repertoire allows walruses to effectively communicate with each other in their social groups and maintain their hierarchical structures.

Overall, vocalizations play a critical role in walrus communication. Through their varied repertoire of calls, walruses are able to convey crucial information, express emotions, and maintain social bonds within their dynamic and complex social structures.

Body Movements

Walruses use body movements as an important means of communication with each other. These movements play a significant role in conveying their intentions, emotions, and establishing social interactions within their groups. The body movements of a walrus can be observed in various contexts such as during feeding, mating, aggression, and territorial defense.


During feeding, walruses exhibit specific body movements to indicate their intentions and communicate with their group members. They may use head shaking and body postures to signal others about the presence of a food source, such as a patch of clams or mussels on the ocean floor. These movements can help coordinate group feeding efforts, allowing members to locate and share the available resources efficiently.

In the context of mating, body movements become crucial in walrus communication. Males often engage in elaborate displays to attract females for mating. They may use head waving, tusk displays, and body undulations, combined with vocalizations, to establish dominance and express their readiness to mate. These movements can indicate the male’s physical capabilities and serve as signals to compete with other males for access to females.

Aggressive interactions and territorial defense also involve specific body movements in walruses. They may engage in threatening behaviors, such as raised heads, inflated throat sacs, and lunges, to assert dominance or defend their territories. These movements demonstrate their strength and willingness to defend their space, discouraging potential threats or competitors.


Overall, body movements are crucial in walrus communication. They help coordinate feeding, attract mates, and establish social hierarchy and territorial boundaries. By understanding and interpreting these movements, walruses can effectively communicate with each other, ensuring successful interaction within their groups.


Walruses communicate with each other primarily through various forms of vocalizations, including deep calls, barks, and bell-like sounds. However, in addition to these vocal signals, walruses also utilize vibrations as a means of communication. Vibrations play an important role in conveying information between individuals in various social contexts.

When walruses huddle together on ice floes or on land, they use their bodies to transmit low-frequency vibrations through the ground or ice. These vibrations can travel significant distances and allow individuals to stay connected even when they are not in direct physical contact. The walruses can detect and interpret these vibrations through their sensitive whiskers and specialized hearing organs.

The vibrations emitted by walruses serve different purposes in their communication. For instance, they can be used to coordinate group movements, such as initiating a change in direction or signaling the start of a feeding bout. Vibrations can also convey social information, helping individuals recognize and identify each other, establish or maintain social bonds, or even show aggression towards rivals.

Overall, vibrations are an important aspect of walrus communication, working in conjunction with vocalizations to facilitate information exchange within groups and contribute to the complex social dynamics of these marine mammals.


Tusk Tapping

Walruses communicate with each other using a variety of vocalizations, body movements, and tactile signals. One unique form of communication is tusk tapping. Tusk tapping occurs when walruses tap their long tusks together in a rhythmic manner. This behavior is commonly observed during social interactions and can serve as a means of establishing dominance or displaying aggression.

Tusk tapping is believed to be an important component of walrus communication due to its distinctive sound and visual display. The sound produced by the tusks tapping together can be quite loud, and the visual display of two walruses facing each other and tapping their tusks can be intimidating to rivals or potential threats.

It is thought that tusk tapping may also play a role in establishing social bonds and maintaining group cohesion. By engaging in this behavior, walruses can convey information about their size, strength, and overall fitness to other members of their group, which may help establish a social hierarchy and reduce the need for physical combat.

Olfactory Cues

Walruses communicate with each other using various sensory cues, including olfactory cues. Olfactory cues refer to the use of scents or odors to convey information. In the case of walruses, they have a highly developed sense of smell which plays an important role in communication within their social groups.


Walruses have a specialized gland called the Jacobson’s organ, located in the roof of their mouth, which enables them to detect and process different scents in their environment. By sniffing the air or water, walruses can detect odors emitted by other individuals, helping them to identify one another and facilitate social interactions.

One important way that walruses use olfactory cues to communicate is through the recognition of individual odor signatures. Each walrus has a unique scent, which is influenced by factors such as diet, age, and reproductive status. By sniffing one another’s scent, walruses can distinguish between individuals and gather information about their identity, social status, and potential mating opportunities.

In addition to individual recognition, olfactory cues also play a role in other forms of communication among walruses. For example, females release chemical signals, called pheromones, to attract males during the breeding season. These pheromones signal the female’s reproductive readiness and help to coordinate mating behaviors.

Overall, olfactory cues are an important component of walrus communication. Their well-developed sense of smell, coupled with the use of unique scent signatures and pheromones, allows walruses to convey messages and gather information about their environment and fellow individuals within their social groups.

Visual Signals

Walruses communicate with each other through various visual signals. They possess a range of physical adaptations that allow them to visually communicate important information to members of their species. One such adaptation is their well-developed sense of vision, which enables them to see and interpret visual cues from other walruses.

Walruses use their visual signals to convey a variety of messages, including social status, aggression, and courtship. For example, dominant individuals may use certain visual displays, such as raising their head high and puffing out their chest, to assert their dominance over others. On the other hand, submissive walruses may adopt a more crouched posture and avoid direct eye contact to indicate their submission.

Another important visual signal used by walruses is their ability to display their tusks. Tusks play a significant role in communication, as their length and curve can convey information about an individual’s age, size, and overall health. Longer and more impressive tusks are often associated with older and more dominant males, while shorter tusks may indicate younger or subordinate individuals.

During courtship, both male and female walruses engage in complex visual displays to attract a mate. Males may exhibit behaviors such as head waving, blowing bubbles, and making vocalizations while positioning themselves close to a female. These visual signals are believed to convey the male’s strength and fitness as a potential partner.

Underwater Sounds

Underwater sounds play a crucial role in the communication of walruses. Walruses are known to emit various vocalizations underwater, which help them communicate with other members of their species. These sounds are produced by the movement of air through their vocal cords and nasal passages.


Walruses use underwater sounds to convey important information such as locating each other, establishing social hierarchies, and finding potential mates. They can produce a wide range of sounds including clicks, whistles, buzzes, and bell-like tones. These sounds can vary in frequency, duration, and pattern, allowing walruses to convey different messages.

Walrus communication is unique in that they possess the ability to produce these vocalizations both above and below the water’s surface. While underwater sounds are primarily used for communication beneath the icy Arctic waters, walruses also produce notable vocalizations above the surface, such as roars and bellows. These calls can carry over long distances and help walruses maintain contact with one another.

Understanding how walruses communicate through underwater sounds is crucial for studying their behavior, social structure, and reproductive strategies. Researchers employ various techniques, such as hydrophones and tagging systems, to record and analyze the vocalizations of walruses. This scientific investigation provides valuable insights into the complex communication system of these marine mammals and contributes to our understanding of their ecological and evolutionary significance.

Group Coordination.

Walruses communicate with each other through various means of group coordination. These marine mammals rely on vocalizations, body postures, and movements to convey important information within their social groups. Vocalizations play a key role in walrus communication, with distinct calls used during different situations. For example, they produce long-range calls to communicate with walruses that are far away, and short-range calls for close-range communication. These vocalizations are also used during aggressive encounters, mating, or when individuals are searching for each other.

In addition to vocalizations, body postures and movements play a significant role in group coordination among walruses. They use their long tusks to display aggression or to establish dominance within the group. Walruses also rely on tactile communication, where they touch and nuzzle each other to reinforce social bonds and maintain group cohesion. Furthermore, their synchronized movements during swimming, diving, and hauling-out behaviors facilitate the coordination of group activities.

Overall, walruses employ a combination of vocalizations, body postures, movements, and tactile communication to facilitate group coordination and effectively communicate with each other. These communication strategies help maintain social order within the group and ensure the successful completion of various activities such as foraging, mating, and avoiding predators.

Key Findings

In conclusion, walruses have a variety of ways to communicate with each other. They use a combination of vocalizations, body movements, and tactile sensations to convey information and maintain social bonds within their groups. Vocalizations, such as bell-like calls and low-frequency rumbles, are important for long-distance communication and finding mates. They also use body postures, gestures, and movements to establish dominance, signal aggression, or display submission. In addition, tactile communication, such as touching, nuzzling, and holding flippers, plays a significant role in social bonding and maintaining group cohesion. Overall, the complex communication system of walruses enables them to coordinate group behavior and navigate their social environment.
In summary, the various communication methods employed by walruses demonstrate their ability to convey information, establish social hierarchies, and foster social connections within their groups. By understanding the intricate communication mechanisms of these marine mammals, scientists can gain valuable insights into their social structure, behavioral patterns, and ecological interactions. Further research is needed to uncover more details about specific communication signals and their meaning in different contexts. Such knowledge is crucial for the conservation and management of walrus populations in a rapidly changing Arctic environment.

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