Unicorns of the Sea
Narwhals might just be the absolute coolest animals on the planet.
Famed for their long, protruding tusks, these aquatic mammals have long fascinated humans both in ancient and contemporary times. Even today, we know relatively little about narwhals, the medium-sized whales native to the Arctic. Perhaps that, along with their other-worldly tusk, is what makes them so fascinating.
Though the spiraled tusks are predominantly a feature of male narwhals, some females have been found to have them. In the past, researchers believed that the tusks served as weapons, but nowadays, science points towards the narwhal’s most identifiable feature as a sensory tool used in navigating the icy waters of the Arctic.
Known to the Inuit peoples of northern Canada and Greenland for over a thousand years, the European “discovery” of the whales led to increased mythology. Their isolated habitats, evasive manners, and inability to survive in captivity have kept them, to this day, one of the most mysterious creatures on Earth.
Fascinating facts about narwhals!
The narwhal’s tusk is actually a tooth. More specifically, it’s the canine tooth on the left side of the upper jaw. Their tusks do not grow out of the top of their heads, but rather through the front of their faces. Narwhals are otherwise toothless.
Like other aquatic mammals, narwhals can drown. While they have relatively few natural predators, ice is the biggest threat to narwhals, which can travel a maximum of 4,760 feet before needing air.
If ice forms too quickly and the narwhals cannot break through, they can drown. This has been known to happen en masse, such as in West Greenland in 1915, where no fewer than 1,000 narwhals were trapped under the ice and died.