Narwhal – Is it a mythical creature or just a strange animal? Read on to unlock the “Unicorn of the Sea’s” real secret!
The Narwhal (Monodon monoceros)may look like a mythical creature or a legendary animal, but it’s not. This is rarely seen whale is said to be the unicorn of the sea. The narwhal is a medium-sized, pale-colored whale found in the icy waters of the Arctic seas. It has a round head, small mouth and a cylindrical body (lacking in dorsal fin). Male narwhals can grow to be about 4 – 9 m long and weigh up to 1,600 kilograms. Females are slightly smaller, growing to about 4 m long and weigh around 1,000 kilograms.
The most eye-catching feature of the male narwhal is its single long tusk growing to about 2–3 meter long. This tusk commonly growing in a spiral fashion, is actually an incisor tooth sticking out on the left side of the upper jaw. The tusk’s function is uncertain; some theories suggest that tusk is used in determining social rank, in obtaining food, or a formidable tool during courtship. However, the tusk is not used for fighting or in hunting.
Narwhals are so sensitive to climate change that they exhibit seasonal migrations. During summer, they are seen gathering in shallow waters, but go offshore, in deeper water as winter approaches. Narwhals have a specialized diet that includes a Greenland flatfish, Gonatus squids, shrimps, Arctic cod, and other marine animals. They are considered the deepest divers amongst mammals. Records showed that they can dive to a depth of about 800 meters over 15 times per day. Each dive may last from 7-25 minutes.
Narwhals can live up to a maximum of 50 years. Currently, their estimated population is between 10,000 to 45,000 individuals. Since hunting narwhals are legal. their main predators are polar bears and orcas.