Franz Josef Land Walruses Make Separate Cluster


© Irina Skalina/TASS

Scientists have revealed the distribution features of Franz Josef Land's Atlantic walruses and defined them as a separate cluster.

The archipelago is inhabited by a genetically isolated group of walruses. This is important for their further protection […], a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences' Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution said.

Scientists have conducted various genetic studies, including on MHC genes (major histocompatibility complex). This is the first time such an analysis has been carried out on Atlantic walruses.

Scientists have been working on Franz Josef Land for three years. They have used satellite tags to study walrus populations.

Scientists have observed about 6,300 animals on Franz Josef Land and Victoria Island (Russia), and including those at sea, the number could be as high as 12,500.

Results of toxicological studies show that walruses living near Franz Josef Land practically have no pollutants in their bodies. Only mercury was detected, but in minor amounts that do not threaten the animals' health.

The data obtained from the study of Franz Josef Land’s walruses will be used in future studies of the Laptev Sea walruses. They are being identified as a separate subspecies in Russia. The walrus is a bioindicator species, which can be used to monitor the ecosystem.

The Atlantic walrus is listed in the Russian Federation's Red Data Book. The population was significantly reduced due to hunting in the 19th and early 20th centuries.