Walrus Habitat: Resting And Breeding Explained.

8 min read

Walruses are large marine mammals that rely on their habitat for both resting and breeding purposes. These habitats, which primarily include sea ice, rocky shores, and shallow coastal waters, provide essential resources for these animals to carry out their resting and breeding behaviors.

Sea ice serves as an important resting platform for walruses. They often haul themselves onto the ice to rest and conserve their energy. The sea ice provides a stable, elevated surface away from potential predators in the water. Additionally, the ice allows walruses to access their preferred food sources, such as clams and other benthic organisms, which are abundant in the waters beneath the ice. For breeding purposes, walruses use a combination of sea ice and terrestrial habitats. Females gather in specific areas on the ice, known as “haulouts,” where they give birth and nurse their young. These haulouts provide a safe and stable environment for the newborn calves, as well as proximity to the marine food sources needed for the mothers. Overall, the intricate relationship between walruses and their habitat plays a crucial role in their resting and breeding behaviors.

Resting Behavior

Walruses use their habitat for resting and breeding purposes in several ways. Firstly, walruses rely on coastal areas as resting sites. They select rocky outcrops or ice floes that provide an elevated and stable platform for their massive bodies. These sites allow them to haul out of the water and conserve energy while resting. This behavior is particularly important for walruses as they have high metabolic rates and need to rest frequently to recharge.

Secondly, walruses use their habitat for breeding purposes. They typically choose specific locations such as traditional breeding grounds where males establish dominance and compete for females. These locations often offer a combination of suitable ice conditions, access to food, and protection from predators. The habitat provides a safe and stable environment for mating and raising their young.

In addition to resting and breeding, walruses also utilize their habitat for thermoregulation. Their thick blubber layer helps them survive in cold environments, but they still rely on their habitat to regulate their body temperature. By carefully selecting resting sites or swimming to cooler waters, walruses can adjust their body temperature to maintain optimal levels.


Overall, walruses rely on their habitat for resting and breeding purposes by selecting suitable sites that provide stability, safety, and access to resources. This behavior ensures their survival and successful reproduction in their natural environment.

Breeding Patterns

Walruses, in their natural habitat, exhibit specific breeding patterns that are influenced by various factors. Firstly, walruses rely on their habitat for both resting and breeding purposes. The choice of resting and breeding sites is crucial for their survival.

Regarding breeding, walruses are polygynous, meaning that a single male mates with multiple females during the breeding season. Often, the larger, dominant males establish territories on ice floes and defend them against other males. These territories attract females who are ready to mate. The male walruses exhibit vigorous displays of dominance, including vocalizations and physical interactions, to attract females and secure their mating opportunities.


After successful mating, the females enter a period of delayed implantation, where the fertilized eggs do not immediately attach to the uterine wall. This delay can last for several months before the embryos start developing. Once the embryos implant, a gestation period of around 15 months begins, during which the females return to the breeding grounds.

Walruses typically give birth to a single calf every two to three years. The newborn calves are born on ice floes and are highly dependent on their mothers for survival. The female walruses nurse their young with high-fat milk, allowing the calves to quickly gain weight and develop the necessary blubber layer for insulation and buoyancy.


Habitat Selection

Habitat selection in walruses is a crucial aspect of their resting and breeding behaviors. Walruses primarily inhabit coastal areas, particularly in the Arctic regions, where they rely on a combination of factors for their habitat selection. These factors include water depth, substrate type, and proximity to food sources.

For resting purposes, walruses often choose ice floes or coastal areas with shallow waters. They prefer ice floes for resting due to their stability and the ability to haul out of the water without expending excessive energy. Shallow coastal areas are also selected as resting habitats, as walruses can easily rest on the seabed or mudflats. By utilizing these resting habitats, walruses can conserve energy and minimize the risk of predation.

Breeding habitats are critical for the reproductive success of walruses. They often select ice floes or nearby coastal areas with suitable conditions for giving birth and nursing their young. Ice floes provide a relatively safe environment for walrus calves, as they offer protection from potential predators such as polar bears. Additionally, these habitats also provide access to nearby feeding grounds, enabling nursing females to replenish their energy reserves.

Social Dynamics

Social dynamics refer to the interactions and relationships that occur within a population of animals. In the case of walruses, their social dynamics play a crucial role in how they utilize their habitat for resting and breeding purposes.

Walruses are known to have a hierarchical social structure, with dominant males or “bulls” occupying the top positions. These dominant individuals have exclusive access to breeding females during the mating season. This social hierarchy is maintained through aggressive displays and vocalizations, which serve to establish dominance and deter potential challengers. The presence of dominant males also attracts females to specific locations within their habitat where mating occurs.

Resting is another important aspect of walrus social dynamics. Walruses gather in large aggregations on ice floes or land during non-breeding seasons. These aggregations, known as “haulouts,” can consist of hundreds or even thousands of individuals. Haulouts not only provide a safe and secure place for rest, but they also facilitate social interactions among walruses. Haulouts tend to form in areas with suitable ice or land surfaces, where walruses can come together and thermoregulate by sharing body heat.

The exact choice of hauling out and breeding areas by walruses is influenced by various factors, including predator avoidance, availability of suitable substrate, and proximity to food sources. Additionally, environmental changes such as declining sea ice due to climate change can impact the social dynamics of walruses by altering their habitat availability and distribution. Understanding these social dynamics is essential for effective conservation efforts and management strategies to ensure the long-term survival of walruses and their habitat.

Physiological Adaptations

Walruses have developed physiological adaptations that allow them to effectively use their habitat for resting and breeding purposes. One key adaptation is their ability to haul themselves out of the water onto ice floes or rocky shores. They have strong forelimbs and sharp claws that enable them to grip and pull their bodies out of the water. This adaptation allows walruses to rest and sleep on land, away from predators and the potential dangers of the open water.


In addition to hauling out of the water, walruses have specialized respiratory adaptations that allow them to withstand prolonged periods of diving while foraging for food. They have highly developed lungs with a large capacity, allowing them to store an oxygen supply that can be used during deep dives. Walruses can hold their breath for up to 30 minutes and dive to depths of over 300 feet, enabling them to exploit food resources in their habitat that may be out of reach for other marine mammals.

Walruses also possess unique reproductive adaptations that enable successful breeding in their habitat. During the breeding season, dominant males establish territories on ice floes and engage in aggressive displays to attract females. These displays often involve impressive physical postures and vocalizations. Females give birth to their young on the ice, and the calves are able to nurse from their mothers’ teats while both are in the water. This adaptation allows for efficient feeding while still providing protection and warmth for the calf.


Final Analysis

In conclusion, the habitat plays a crucial role in shaping the resting and breeding behaviors of walruses. Walruses utilize their habitat in various ways to meet these important needs. They rely on stable ice floes during the breeding season to establish haul-out sites where they rest, socialize, and give birth to their calves. These ice platforms provide a safe and stable environment for walruses to rest and rear their young in a protected manner.

Furthermore, walruses also use their habitat for resting purposes outside of the breeding season. They exhibit a preference for coastal areas that offer shallow waters and substrate suitable for their specific resting behaviors. These areas not only provide ample food resources but also enable walruses to haul out and rest on land or ice, avoiding predators and conserving energy.

In summary, walruses heavily rely on their habitat for both resting and breeding purposes. Understanding the importance of their natural environment in meeting these needs is crucial for the conservation and management efforts aimed at protecting this iconic species.

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