Strange feeding habits

Walruses eat molluscs. That’s the story you’ll always read in the books and also the one I always tell my guests. Nothing to fear, one would say. But then, two years ago we found a Walrus that seemed to be scavenging off a dead Minke Whale. We didn’t see him actually feed on the carcass, but he spent quite some time around it and the water seemed too deep for it to be feeding on molluscs.

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Walrus and Fulmars on a Minke Whale carcass

Last trip we found something different again. Close to a known Walrus haul out site we found a dead Bearded Seal pup (the picture was kindly provided by one of my guests, Steve Martin). Nothing weird on that, they do die, especially when they’re young. But then the cause of death looked weird. The skull was more or less missing. Back on the ship I told the story of a Ringed Seal pup that was put in the same aquarium as a Walrus in a zoo. Within minutes the Walrus had the Ringed Seal in its front flippers, its head against its sucking mouth and did it suck the brains out through the skull. They have a very strong sucking mouth that they usually use to suck the meat out of a shell, but apparently this is also strong enough to suck brains out through the skull. When we started thinking of what that would look like, we came to the conclusion that it should look something like this.

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Bearded Seal pup with crushed skull: eaten by a Walrus?

So, even though Walruses usually eat molluscs, they can be quite fearsome as well sometimes and feed on a larger array of prey items.

 

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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