Near threatened (assessed February 2, 2016)
Not known/Not sequenced
Atlantic walruses are large pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, and walrus) with front and hind flippers, like those of seals, that they use to dive and propel themselves through the water. Their tusks are upper canine teeth and they have a mustache made from vibrissae. They can grow to be up to 1100 kg and are a cinnamon brown colour but can change to be white or pink depending on their temperature. The Atlantic walrus occupies territories from the eastern Canadian arctic to the western Kara Sea. Atlantic walruses require habitats with shallow water (about 80 m or less) and continental shelf areas that support bivalve reproduction, open waters that give access to feeding areas, and nearby ice or land that can be used as haul out spots for resting. Walruses feed primarily on bivalve molluscs. Females mature between 5–10 years of age and have approximately one calf every three years with a gestation period of 11 months.
Walruses play an important role in Indigenous cultures by being hunted. Residents of Puvirnituq, Akulivik, Ivujivik, and Salluit regularly take walruses from the Hudson Strait portion of Hudson Bay. Walruses provide an important staple in the subsistence economy in the eastern Canadian Arctic and Greenland. The hunting of the walrus and the sharing of its proceeds continues to be of great social and cultural significance in Indigenous arctic culture. As well, walrus meat and the ivory from their tusks holds great economic value. In the Inuit culture the walrus is used for meat, dog food, ivory, and a symbol of cultural importance. They are a key species in the marine Arctic food web, they have been harvested by the Arctic Indigenous peoples for thousands of years, however during the 19th and 20th centuries when commercial harvesting of the walrus began there was a rapid decline in population along the arctic regions. By 1928, commercial harvesting of the walrus was banned in Canada.
As assessed by the IUCN Red List, Atlantic walruses are listed under "near threatened" status. In Canada its populations are threatened by hunting, noise disturbances, industrial activities, and climatic warming. As the sea ice melts and disappears this will require the walrus to adapt to different environments than the one they have occupied for centuries. Since they require such niche habitats, the destruction by global warming to their habitats will cause a rapid and extreme decline to their populations. Hunting is the main cause of mortality among the Atlantic walrus. The total abundance of Atlantic walrus was assessed to be likely just under 25,000 individuals as of 2016 with sub-populations increasing.
There is low genetic variation among historical Atlantic walrus perhaps due to the extreme overhunting of them during the 19th and 20th centuries.