Published: June 2007
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In Learn More the National Geographic magazine team shares some of its best sources and other information to expand your knowledge of our featured subjects. Special thanks to the Research Division.
By Neil Shea, National Geographic Staff

Did You Know?

Like hippos, walruses are sometimes thought of as blubbery lumps—content to eat clams, lie on chunks of ice, and soak up the sun. But the big beasts can move rapidly through the water and aggressively defend their territory against intruders—including polar bears and humans in boats. They’ve also been known to eat more than shellfish.

Walruses usually consume mollusks and other invertebrates found in bottom sediments, their mustache of facial bristles helping them detect prey. But scientists and travelers have observed walruses killing seals and sometimes ducks, ripping them to pieces in their powerful jaws. No one is sure what drives the walrus to hunt other mammals and birds. It seems seal hunting is generally the domain of older, larger males, and seal meat does not appear to be a major source of protein for most walruses. It’s possible that walruses could stalk seals to augment their diets when shellfish are less plentiful—or it could merely be one more adaptation in a realm where extreme cold makes every mouthful, no matter what it comes from, count.

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