Walrus Communication: A Scientific Exploration

8 min read

Walruses, known scientifically as Odobenus rosmarus, are intriguing marine mammals that inhabit the Arctic regions. These large creatures possess unique communication methods through which they interact and convey information to each other. Understanding how walruses communicate with one another is essential to gaining insight into their social behavior and overall survival strategies.

Communication among walruses primarily occurs underwater, where they produce a wide range of vocalizations. These sounds include clicks, whistles, and bell-like tones, which can travel across long distances under the water. Additionally, walruses use various body movements and postures to communicate with their peers. These non-verbal cues involve subtle variations in body orientation, head movements, and the use of flippers. By combining vocalizations and physical gestures, walruses establish intricate communication networks, allowing them to coordinate group activities and navigate their complex social structures.


Walruses communicate with each other through a variety of vocalizations. These vocalizations play a vital role in their social interactions and can transmit information about their behavior and intentions. Researchers have identified different types of vocalizations used by walruses, including roars, bellows, and clicks.

Roars are low-frequency, long-duration sounds produced by male walruses during territorial disputes or dominance displays. These vocalizations can be heard over long distances and are often used to establish dominance or to intimidate rivals.


Bellows are another type of vocalization commonly used by walruses. These are short, loud calls made by both males and females, and are used to maintain contact within a group or locate each other when they are separated. Bellows can vary in pitch and intensity, and researchers have suggested that they might also convey information about an individual’s size or reproductive status.

Clicks are rapid, high-frequency sounds that are used by walruses for echolocation underwater. These clicks help walruses navigate, locate prey, and avoid obstacles in their environment. While primarily used for orientation purposes, clicks can also be used as contact calls between individuals during cooperative behaviors or to initiate social interactions.

Overall, the vocalizations of walruses serve as an important means of communication in their social lives. Through their roars, bellows, and clicks, walruses can convey information about dominance, location, and cooperation, enhancing their ability to interact with each other in their dynamic marine environment.

Body Movements

Walruses communicate with each other through a variety of body movements. These movements include the use of their flippers, tusks, and vocalizations. Body movements are an important means of communication for walruses, allowing them to convey information and establish social hierarchies within their groups.

One of the primary ways that walruses communicate with each other is through their flippers. They use their flippers to signal dominance or submission during social interactions. For example, a dominant walrus may raise its flippers high in the air to establish its position in the group, while a submissive walrus may keep its flippers close to its body to show deference.

Another important body movement that walruses use for communication is the display of their tusks. Walruses have long, prominent tusks which they can use to signal aggression or threat. By pointing their tusks towards another walrus, they can display dominance and establish their position within the social hierarchy. Conversely, a walrus may lay its tusks flat against its face as a sign of submission or to signal that it poses no threat.


In addition to physical movements, walruses also communicate through vocalizations. They produce a wide range of sounds, including bell-like calls, grunts, and snorts. These vocalizations can convey important information such as the walrus’s mood, intentions, or warnings about nearby dangers.

Tusk Signals

Walruses communicate with each other using a variety of signals, one of which is through their tusks. Walrus tusks are long, ivory-like teeth that protrude from their upper jaw. These tusks play an important role in communication and provide valuable information to other individuals within the walrus social group.

One way that walruses use their tusks to communicate is through physical displays. During interactions, the walruses may make physical contact with their tusks, commonly referred to as tusk jousting. This behavior is often observed among male walruses during territorial disputes or mating competitions. Tusk jousting involves two walruses facing each other and using their tusks to push against each other’s necks or shoulders. This display helps establish dominance and hierarchy within the group.


Another way that walruses use their tusks for communication is through sound production. Walruses can create a diverse range of vocalizations, including clicks, whistles, and bell-like sounds. These vocalizations are produced by positioning their tusks against each other and the surrounding air cavities of their head. By varying the pressure and position of their tusks, walruses can modulate the sounds they produce, allowing them to convey different messages to other walruses.

In addition to physical displays and vocalizations, walruses also use their tusks to convey visual signals. For example, they may raise their heads and expose their tusks while swimming or on land, which can be a warning sign to other walruses to keep their distance. Furthermore, the size and shape of a walrus’s tusks can provide information about its age, health, and overall quality as a potential mate.

Overall, walruses rely on their tusks to communicate vital information to other members of their social group. Whether it involves physical displays, vocalizations, or visual signals, the tusks play a crucial role in facilitating communication among walruses.


Underwater Communication

Walruses communicate with each other using various methods, including underwater vocalizations. Their ability to produce a wide range of sounds allows them to convey information to other members of their group. Vocalizations can include clicks, whistles, and low-frequency calls. These sounds can travel efficiently underwater due to the high density of water, allowing walruses to communicate over long distances.

One type of vocalization commonly observed in walruses is called “roaring” or “growling.” This deep, resonant vocalization is produced by adult males during courtship and territorial disputes. The purpose of this vocalization is to establish dominance and attract mates. The low-frequency nature of these calls helps them travel through the water effectively.

In addition to vocalizations, walruses also use physical displays to communicate with each other underwater. These displays may include body postures, head movements, and fin gestures. By using these visual signals, walruses can convey information about their intentions, social status, or warnings to one another.

Overall, the underwater communication of walruses involves a combination of vocalizations and visual displays. These methods enable walruses to effectively communicate and interact with each other in their marine environment.


Pheromones are chemical substances that are released by animals, including walruses, in order to communicate with each other. They play a crucial role in various aspects of animal behavior, including mate attraction, territorial marking, and social coordination. In the case of walruses, pheromones are particularly important for communication and are used to convey information about their reproductive status, presence, and territory.

Walruses use pheromones to attract potential mates during the breeding season. Male walruses release specific pheromones that signal their sexual readiness and availability to females. These pheromones can travel through the water and help females locate potential mates. Similarly, females may release pheromones to indicate their receptivity to males.


Pheromones also serve as territorial markers for walruses. Males, in particular, use their scent to communicate ownership of a specific area, such as a feeding ground or a prime breeding spot. By releasing pheromones in these locations, they deter other walruses from encroaching on their territory, helping to establish and maintain social hierarchies within walrus populations.

Overall, pheromones play a crucial role in how walruses communicate with each other. These chemical signals help them attract mates, establish territories, and coordinate social interactions. By understanding the importance of pheromones in walrus communication, we gain insights into the intricate and complex nature of animal behavior.

Key Outcomes

In conclusion, walruses demonstrate a complex system of communication, relying primarily on a combination of vocalizations and body postures. Through their repertoire of vocalizations, including whistles, clicks, and bell-like sounds, walruses are able to convey information about their location, activities, and intentions. They also use body postures and movements to communicate various social signals, such as dominance, submission, and aggression. Additionally, scent marks left by walruses serve as a form of chemical communication, allowing them to signal their presence to others and establish territory boundaries.

Overall, the communication methods employed by walruses demonstrate a high level of sophistication and adaptability, enabling them to navigate their social interactions and coordinate various behaviors. However, further research is needed to fully comprehend the intricacies of walrus communication and to explore potential variations among different populations or age groups. Nevertheless, the existing body of knowledge on walrus communication provides valuable insights into their social dynamics and contributes to our understanding of the overall behavior and ecology of this unique marine mammal species.

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