Date of Award

12-2016

Degree Type

Honors College Thesis

Department

Biological Sciences; Psychology

First Advisor

Stan Kuczaj, Ph.D.

Advisor Department

Psychology

Abstract

Understanding mating behaviors of a species can be utilized to help protect the species. Results of population surveys have shown the walrus population to be on the decline, and over the history of walruses being held in captivity, few pups have been born or survived. Not much is known about Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) due to the isolated Arctic habitats in which walruses live making wild population studies difficult. Few studies have examined wild observations of walrus mating behaviors and virtually none for captivity. The purpose of this study was to observe a captive male Pacific walrus for mating behaviors, examine frequency of behaviors, and describe observations. The subjects, one male and two females, were video recorded in the pool area of the walrus exhibit at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom from November 2013 through January 2014. Only behaviors exhibited directly by the male were noted. Behaviors directly associated with mating were considered grabs, rolls, and holds, which could also be coupled with tusk strikes or nuzzles. Grabs were the most frequently observed behavior, and holds were not significantly observed which could elude to an issue with successful walrus mating in captivity. The male walrus used other sexual outlets such as self-gratification and toy use; however, these behaviors were not as significant as sexual encounters with females. There appeared to be mate preference for the female with tusk as interactions with this female occurred significantly more. Pharyngeal sac inflation (PSI) was described as a vocal and visual behavior that has frequently been noted in previous research. PSI and other mating behaviors are likely learned from other males, which could explain possible behavioral differences exhibited by the male of this study.

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