Walruses, with their thick blubber layer and unique anatomical features, are well adapted to regulate their body temperature in the cold Arctic environment. Like other marine mammals, walruses rely on a combination of physiological and behavioral adaptations to maintain a stable body temperature in the frigid waters of the Arctic.

thermographic image of a walrus

One of the key thermoregulating strategies used by walruses is their thick layer of blubber, which serves as insulation against the cold water. This layer of fat can be up to 4 inches thick and helps to keep the animal’s core temperature stable even when swimming in water as cold as 28°F (-2°C).

In addition to their blubber layer, walruses also have a unique blood circulation system that helps them to regulate their body temperature. Blood flow to the extremities, such as the flippers and tail, is restricted, which helps to conserve heat and maintain core body temperature. Conversely, blood flow to the organs and muscles is increased, helping to generate heat and maintain a stable internal temperature.

Walruses also have specialized thermoreceptors in their skin that can detect changes in temperature and trigger behavioral responses to help regulate body heat. For example, when a walrus gets too cold, it may move to shallower water or climb onto an ice floe to warm up. Conversely, when a walrus gets too warm, it may move into deeper water to cool down.

Finally, walruses also engage in a behavior called “hauling out,” where they come out of the water onto land or ice to rest and regulate their body temperature. During hauling out, walruses will lie in the sun or shade, depending on their temperature needs, and may even move around to find the optimal temperature.

In conclusion, walruses use a combination of thick blubber, unique blood circulation, thermoreceptors, and behavioral adaptations to maintain a stable body temperature in the cold Arctic environment. These adaptations have allowed the species to thrive in one of the harshest environments on Earth.