This is my new favorite thing. I mean, it's a whistling walrus that makes fart noises on command, people. What's not to love?
It's easy to forget how utterly alien-looking these massive marine mammals truly are. Just look at the way his already bugged-out eyes bug out even more when he's asked to sputter! It's amazing! And it's also a ridiculously cool anatomical feature. It turns out that walrus eyes, while small in comparison to those of other pinnipeds (aka fin-footed mammals), have unusually well-developed extrinsic eye muscles. According to a paper describing the anatomy of the Walrus head, published in Aquatic Mammals:
The strong palpebral muscles can open the eyelids and probably protrude the eye by thickening during contraction. The protrusion and mobility of the eyes enlarges the monocular visual field. The recti muscles can roll the eyes to look laterally, dorsally or frontally. In the latter 2 positions binocular vision is possible. Binocular vision seems a requirement for walrus stereoscopic vision, a property which has not been tested yet.
How wild is that? Stereoscopic vision — a feature of perception that we, as humans, benefit from — requires both optic nerves to cross before entering the brain. The paper that I'm quoting from was published back in 1993, but as far as I can tell, researchers still aren't sure whether walruses are capable of this little visual trick or not (though I did come across an evolutionary biology textbook on marine mammals, published in 2006, that says the jury's still out).
But getting back to aliens: it turns out this big fella (a 30-year-old Pacific walrus at Tacoma, Washington's Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium) just happens to be named E.T., in honor of "his wrinkled resemblance to alien in the popular 1982 movie E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." How very fitting, no?
We love you, E.T.; we love you and we want to be friends with you.
[Spotted on boingboing]