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Long in the Tooth

Both male and female walruses have long ivory tusks, although the tusks of the males tend to be longer and thicker than those of females.

The tusks are the walrus' very long upper canine teeth, and they grow to an average length of about 36 cm / 14 inches, but they can grow as long as 100 cm / 39 inches in males. (This makes Dracula seem sort of puny, doesn't it?).

The walrus uses its long ivory tusks for many things: as hooks for hauling its heavy body up onto land or ice floes, foraging for food on the ocean floor (clams are a favorite food), and as a defensive weapon for protection from polar bears or killer whales.

However, the main role of the tusks is a social one, and walruses use them in dominance and mating displays. They are only secondarily used as weapons, but when walruses cross tusks, there are often injuries involved. The scars seen on the necks and shoulders of adult males are evidence of tusking.

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