The Internet is going wild over this walrus spotted “snorkeling” off the coast of Alaska's Bering Sea. It’s seen grasping an ice shelf with its long tusks, keeping its nostrils high enough above the waterline to breath.
The tweet reads: "Good morning, walruses sometimes hook their teeth on the ice and relax". It had almost 50,000 likes at the time of publication, but is the gawky pinniped really spending a lazy afternoon snorkeling and chillin’ shelf-side?
Mmm, probably not.
Although walruses can rest in the water in this manner, they rarely do, according to a 2017 study published in Elsevier. The leviathans typically rest on ice shelves or beaches where temperatures are warmer than the frigid waters near the Arctic Circle. It’s more likely our tusked friend is resurfacing for a quick breath of air before diving back down to hunt for food.
And boy, these guys can eat. Weighing anywhere from 600 to 1500 kilograms (1,320 to 3,300 pounds) and more than 3 meters (10 feet) long, the Pacific walrus can eat up to 4,000 clams in one seafloor hunt. Their “mustache” – called a mystacial vibrissae – is made up of extremely sensitive whiskers that are used to detect shellfish along the cold, dark ocean floor.
If he is chillaxin’, then it’s probably because extreme wind or rain is making the air outside colder than the water he’s bobbing around in. Walruses are able to stay afloat in the water using balloon-like extensions called "pharyngeal pouches" that act like a life jacket. The expandable pouches are located on each side of the animal’s esophagus and can hold up to 50 liters (13 gallons) of air when inflated.
If you think that sounds awkward, well, it looks even more hilarious.
It's also possible our walrus is using its teeth as an anchor in the slushy ice. Reaching speeds of up to almost 35 kilometers per hour (22 miles per hour) under water, walruses are super clumsy out of it. To get up and out, they use their long canine teeth (called sabers) to haul their blubbery bodies out of the water.
In fact, the scientific name for the Pacific walrus is “Odobenus rosmarus”, which literally means "tooth-walking seahorse".
So, no. Our walrus friend probably isn’t throwing out some serious weekend vibes. He’s likely just taking a quick work break. Sorry to burst your bubble.