November 5, 2014
Movember Gone Wild: The Walrus
- as seen by -Michelle Faber
November: a month for turkey dinners, pumpkin-flavored everything, and, of course, growing awkward mustaches. Over the past decade, November has become “Movember,” when males of the world don well-groomed mustaches to raise awareness for men’s health.
But did you know that humans aren’t the only ones sporting this sophisticated look? The walrus, pictured above, is so dapper that their tough whiskers were actually the inspiration for our classic “walrus” mustache, popular in facial fur fashion since the 19th century.
But the real walrus mustache does more than just catch crumbs. These stiff bristles, or mystacial vibrissae, are actually more like tiny organs than hairs. Chock full of blood vessels and nerves, vibrissae help a walrus detect shellfish and other benthic organisms hidden on the ocean floor. These highly sensitive whiskers allow the animal to dig through the seabed substrate and distinguish a delicious meal from stones or other non-food objects with impressively high accuracy. Walruses depend greatly on their vibrissae since their eyes are positioned on the sides of their head and, not to mention, digging through the sand often makes it too murky to see.
So there you have it. Not only does the walrus’ mustache give these creatures a look of refinement and class, but it also serves a very important purpose, making it one of the best mustachioed mammals in the animal kingdom.