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Tusks conserve materials: walrus


Walrus tusks / Steve Johnso.. / LicenseCC-by-nc-sa - Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike

The tusks of a walrus conserve materials because they are multi-functional.

"The walrus has only 18 teeth in its mouth, but the upper canines form great ivory tusks up to a metre long. It uses them for levering itself on to ice floes, as weapons in battles with other males over females, and as digging tools to extract clams and other invertebrates from the sea bed. A walrus may dive to depths of 200 metres and more in search of food, and is thought to use its tusks to plough up the sediments on the sea bottom to expose shells, which are recognized in these murky depths by the stiff sensory bristles on its snout. Behind the tusks are strong flat teeth capable of crushing the hardest shells." (Foy and Oxford Scientific Films 1982:147)
About the inspiring organism
Med_216999246_73b0beacbc_b Walrus
Odobenus rosmarus (Linnaeus, 1758)
Common name: Walrus

Habitat(s): Marine Intertidal, Marine Neritic, Marine Oceanic
Learn more at
Some organism data provided by: ITIS: The Integrated Taxonomic Information System
Organism/taxonomy data provided by:
Species 2000 & ITIS Catalogue of Life: 2008 Annual Checklist

IUCN Red List Status: Unknown

Bioinspired products and application ideas

Application Ideas: Designing simple multi-functional products to reduce material use.

Industrial Sector(s) interested in this strategy: Business, design

Foy S; Oxford Scientific Films. 1982. The Grand Design: Form and Colour in Animals. Lingfield, Surrey, U.K.: BLA Publishing Limited for J.M.Dent & Sons Ltd, Aldine House, London. 238 p.
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over 7 years ago
Great example of life principle, "Optimizing rather than maximizing" Animals will make the most of any feature they have. For instance, the walrus tusks can be used for climbing, fighting, digging tool, plow up sediments. Has multiple functions so it's worth the energy to create.
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