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Dear Pagophilic Seal, 

My friend Theresa says that Walruses, when food is plentiful, will suck the 
brains out of baby seals, because apparently they have the strongest 
suction power in the animal kingdom, and brains are very nutritious. 

Can you please confirm this? 

Thank you, 
Concerned in Alberta.

Pagophilic seal says:

Dear Concerned, 
While walruses feed mainly on bivalve molluscs and other benthic invertebrates, they have been known to prey on other aquatic organisms including fishes, birds, and seals. While there are numerous reports of walruses preying on seals, including "baby seals," there is little evidence that they feed selectively on the brains of these animals. 

Fay (1990) reported finding the remains of a ringed seal (Phoca hispida) in a walrus stomach, identifying seal tissues including skin, hair, fat, muscle and viscera.  In an early summary of carnivory in walruses, Fay (n.d.) also noted that strips and chunks of skin and blubber from ringed seals (Pusa hispida) and bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) were found in the stomachs of walruses.  Lowry and Fay (1984) examined seal eating by walruses in the Bering and Chukchi Seas, and found that 5 seal eating walruses had consumed parts of 7 different seals, 5 of which were determined to be "young of the year" or "baby seals."  Once again, however, the parts of the seals were mainly pieces of skin and blubber (84% by weight). 

Walruses have been reported to grasp seals with the forelimbs, tearing open the carcass by means of
the tusks. The walrus' extraordinary oral suction is well documented, and is thought to be the means
by which chunks of viscera are torn from seal carcasses.  While the mental image of a walrus sucking the brains out of a baby seal may be entertaining to some, (and arguably a good candidate for an afternoon of  Photoshopping), based on the examinations to date it is evident that walruses consume principally the hide and blubber of seals, not the brains. This may be explicable based on the high caloric content of the blubber. 

I hope this helps to answer your question. 


Additional reading: 

Fay, F.H. 1990. Predation on a ringed seal, Phoca hispida, and a Black Guillemot, Cepphus grylle,
by a Pacific Walrus, Odobenus rosmarus divergens. Marine Mammal Science 6(4):348-350. 

Lowry, L.F. and F.H. Fay. 1984. Seal eating by Walruses in the Bering and Chukchi Seas. Polar
Biology 3:11-18. 

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