Mating Behaviors In Walruses

7 min read

Walruses, known scientifically as Odobenus rosmarus, are large marine mammals that inhabit the Arctic regions of the Northern Hemisphere. These fascinating creatures have distinctive tusk-like teeth and are well-known for their social behavior, including their mating rituals. Walruses exhibit specific mating behaviors that are unique to their species and are influenced by various environmental and social factors.

During the mating season, typically occurring in the spring, male walruses engage in a variety of essential behaviors to compete for dominance and attract females. One such behavior is the formation of mating aggregations, where several males come together in close proximity to females. These aggregations can consist of dozens or even hundreds of individuals, creating a highly competitive environment in which males display their strength and dominance through vocalizations and physical confrontations. This behavior, known as lek mating, plays a vital role in the reproductive success of male walruses.

Sexual Dimorphism

Sexual dimorphism refers to the differences in physical characteristics between males and females of a species. In the case of walruses, sexual dimorphism is evident in various aspects of their appearance and behavior. Male walruses are typically larger and heavier compared to their female counterparts. They have more pronounced features such as longer tusks and larger body size.

These physical differences in walruses are primarily attributed to their mating behaviors. During the breeding season, male walruses engage in competitive behavior to establish dominance and gain access to potential mates. This can involve vocalizing loudly, displaying their tusks, and using their size to intimidate rivals. The competition among males for mates often results in the largest and strongest males being more successful in securing mating opportunities.

Female walruses, on the other hand, exhibit different reproductive behaviors. They are known to form large groups, called haulouts, where they gather to give birth and rear their young. These social groups provide protection and support for the females and their offspring. Female walruses also exhibit a level of mate choice, as they are more likely to mate with dominant males who have demonstrated their fitness through successful displays of aggression and social dominance.

Overall, the sexual dimorphism observed in walruses is closely tied to their specific mating behaviors. The larger size and more pronounced features of male walruses aid in their competitive displays and dominance, while the social structure and mate choice of females contribute to their own reproductive success.


Mating Rituals

Walruses do exhibit specific mating behaviors. During the breeding season, male walruses engage in various rituals to attract females and establish dominance. These rituals often involve vocalizations, physical displays, and aggressive behaviors.

One common mating behavior observed in male walruses is the production of a loud, bell-like vocalization known as a “roar.” This vocalization is used to attract females and signal dominance to other males. The size and strength of the roar can indicate the male’s fitness and reproductive quality.

Male walruses also engage in physical displays to impress and court females. They often engage in head-to-head contests where they clash their tusks together. These displays showcase their physical strength and help establish dominance over other males.

Aggressive behaviors are frequently seen during walrus mating rituals. Male walruses can become highly territorial and will aggressively defend their chosen females from competing males. These aggressive interactions can involve chasing, lunging, and even physical combat.


Polygamy refers to a mating system in which individuals have multiple mates simultaneously. In the case of walruses, they do exhibit specific mating behaviors that are characteristic of polygamy. Male walruses, known as bulls, compete for access to females, called cows, during the breeding season. This competition can be quite intense, with bulls displaying their dominance through physical contests, vocalizations, and other behaviors.


The larger and more dominant bulls tend to have higher chances of mating with multiple females. These bulls establish territories or haulout locations on land or ice, where they attract and defend a group of females. The cows, in turn, are attracted to these territories and select a dominant bull to mate with. The mating itself usually occurs in the water, where the bull mounts the cow from behind. Once fertilized, the pregnant cows return to the haulout location to give birth.

While the dominant bull has priority access to the females, smaller or less dominant bulls may also attempt to mate with cows by sneak mating or challenging the dominant male. However, their success rates are typically lower. The polygamous nature of walrus mating behavior is believed to be driven by reproductive advantages associated with higher genetic variation, as well as the availability of abundant resources in their marine environment.

Vocal Communication

Walruses exhibit specific mating behaviors, including vocal communication, during their breeding season. Vocal communication plays a significant role in their reproductive strategies. Male walruses use vocalizations to attract and communicate with potential mates. These vocalizations are often referred to as “roars.”

Male walruses produce loud, deep roars that can carry over long distances in water. These roars serve several purposes during the mating season. First, they help males establish their territory and claim their breeding grounds. By producing powerful and resonant roars, males can assert their dominance and deter rival males from encroaching on their territory.


Secondly, male walruses use vocalizations to attract females. The roars act as a form of advertisement, signaling their presence and fitness to potential mates. Females respond to the roars by vocalizing back, indicating their willingness to engage in courtship behaviors.

Once a male successfully attracts a female, vocal communication continues throughout the courtship process. The male and female engage in a series of calls and response vocalizations, which strengthen their bond and facilitate successful mating. These vocal interactions also allow the individuals to coordinate their movements and maintain proximity during courtship.


Breeding Grounds

Walruses, a species of marine mammal, have specific breeding grounds where they engage in mating behaviors. These breeding grounds are typically located in shallow coastal areas, such as barrier islands or sandy beaches. Male walruses establish territories in these areas, often marked by vocalizations and physical displays to attract females.

During the mating season, male walruses compete for access to females by engaging in aggressive interactions, such as tusking and pushing. These displays of dominance help to determine the hierarchy within the male population. The strongest and most dominant males are more successful in attracting mates and securing mating opportunities.

Female walruses, known as cows, are attracted to these breeding grounds to give birth and mate. They usually arrive a few weeks before giving birth, during which time they form social bonds with other females. Once the females give birth, they nurse and care for their calves, which can be a significant investment of time and energy.

Mating behaviors in walruses often involve vocalizations, such as underwater calls or bell-like sounds, as a means of communication between males and females. These vocalizations can serve to attract mates, establish territory, or maintain social bonds. They are essential for coordinating mating activities and maintaining the social structure within the breeding ground.


In Closing

In conclusion, walruses exhibit specific mating behaviors that are essential for their reproductive success. The male walruses often engage in aggressive displays and physical dominance in order to secure mates. They use their long canine tusks to establish social hierarchy and compete for access to females. This behavior is known as “tusking” and is a common mating strategy among male walruses.

Additionally, male walruses produce a variety of vocalizations during the mating season to attract females. These vocalizations, which include deep bell-like sounds and barking noises, serve as a form of communication between males and females. By using these vocal signals, male walruses can advertise their presence and fitness to potential mates, thereby increasing their chances of successful reproduction.

Overall, the specific mating behaviors exhibited by walruses contribute to the reproductive success of the species. Through physical displays of dominance and vocal communication, male walruses are able to secure mates and ensure the continuation of their genetic lineage. Understanding these mating behaviors is crucial for conservation efforts and the preservation of walrus populations.

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