What is it about walrus skulls? They are photographed in museums by Canadians. You can buy them (or replicas) online for $449, $495, $935, $1,195 or $1,950 (Canadian). They are mostly found on beaches broken in half. They were traditionally thrown into the sea by the Inuit’s after the ice melted. In addition, it has been recorded that the Inuits “thought that the spirits were playing soccer with a walrus skull. Their name for the aurora is aqsalijaat, the trail of those who play soccer”. There is an image link here (although note that the Nunivak say that the “aurora borealis are walrus spirits playing with a human skull”). Walrus skulls are covered by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act so if you are a fisherman and you get one in your net you have to give it to a museum or you could be charged with illegal possession. In Animal Skulls: A Guide to North American Species by Mark Elbroch notes that “the great weight of a walrus’s skull is thought to aid the animal when breaking through ice flows to create breathing holes in winter”. Imagine that, generations of walrus’s getting thicker skulls so they can head butt their way to breathing. Makes getting opposable thumbs seem like fun. Walrus skulls range in sizes but a “fine” example of a Odobenus Rosmarus was measured to by 38 by 24 cm. They have been in at least one case seized from a clothing store in Maine by fish-and-wildlife agents. For walrus skulls the recommended way of cleaning any that you might find on the beach is to “bag it in plastic and place where the sun can hit it but critters won’t get to it. After a couple of weeks hose it down good.” Otherwise they can just be scraped clean on a cardboard box. Walrus skulls have also been decorated, used to infer patterns of sexual segregation in walruses and compared to sabre toothed tigers or more specifically “in my maddest moments I think that sabre toothism did not arise twice in the Carnivora Order but three times.” The tusks can also be used for “benthic foraging”. Which is as good a place as any to end this post.
Walrus SkullsFebruary 6, 2008