No surprises here.
Odobenus, the walrus (Figs. 1, 2), nests with the seal, Phoca, in the large reptile tree (LRT, 1280 taxa). But I think you’ll see, the division between seals and walruses runs deep, perhaps with some parallel development of the flippers, fat, etc.
Odobenus rasmanus (Linneaus 1758) is the extant walrus. The canines are much enlarged here. The other teeth are flat and barely erupt. The naris is elevated. The jaw joint is aligned with the bottom of the jaw and the retroarticular process is much reduced. The scapula is robust.
Walruses eat bivalve mollusk scraped from the sea floor bottom.
According to Wikipedia, “The walrus’s body shape shares features with both sea lions (eared seals: Otariidae) and seals (true seals: Phocidae). As with otariids, it can turn its rear flippers forward and move on all fours; however, its swimming technique is more like that of true seals, relying less on flippers and more on sinuous whole body movements. Also like phocids, it lacks external ears.” Earlier the LRT recovered separate terrestrial ancestors for seals and sea lions.
Neotherium (Fig. 3)
shares a long list of traits with Puijila, which was originally hailed as a last common ancestor for seals, sea lions and walruses (Fig. 4). In the LRT Pujilia is not basal to sea lions. In the LRT Neotherium nests with Ursus, the bear, not with Odobenus, the walrus.
What are the giant canines used for?
According to Wikipedia, “Tusks are slightly longer and thicker among males, which use them for fighting, dominance and display; the strongest males with the largest tusks typically dominate social groups. Tusks are also used to form and maintain holes in the ice and aid the walrus in climbing out of water onto ice. Analyses of abrasion patterns on the tusks indicate they are dragged through the sediment while the upper edge of the snout is used for digging.”
You can think of walruses
as aquatic bears or aquatic stylinodontids (Fig. 4). Ursus and Neotherium are sisters to the last common ancestor (LCA) of walruses and stylinodontids with Puijila the LCA of bears and walruses.
Boessenecker R 2014. The evolutionary history of walruses, parts1–5:
Linnaeus C von 1758. Systema naturæ per regna tria naturæ, secundum classes, ordines, genera, species, cum characteribus, differentiis, synonymis, locis. Tomus I. Editio decima, reformata.