Narwhals are something that many of us have heard of throughout the years, but just how much do we know about the unicorns of the sea? It turns out there is a lot more to the animals than meets the eye.
How do narwhals look?
The most famous thing about narwhals is their tusks, but did you know that not all of them have one? Narwhals typically reach 15 feet long, while their tusks can reach up to nine-foot in length. Tusks are usually reserved for males, but rare females have been known to grow one or two tusks. They are also known for their mottled gray, white, and black skin that helps narwhals to blend into their underwater background.
Where can you find narwhals?
If you want to find a narwhal for yourself, then you’ll need to head to the Arctic Ocean. Here, they can be found around the coast of Russia, Norway, Greenland, and Canada. They spend their winters in dense sea ice, making them the only whale to do so, and is another reason that the species is so tough to study. After all, finding a narwhal is no easy task.
Why do they have tusks?
Even though narwhals are a type of toothed whale, their teeth serve little purpose, meaning they rely on their tusk. However, their tusk is actually the left canine tooth that grows out of their skull in a spiral pattern. For years, people believed the tusk was to break the ice on the surface or for hunting. That was until they tried to figure out why female narwhals typically don’t have a tusk, leading many to believe it’s part of a mating characteristic and used to fight off competition.
What is their normal behavior?
Like most other whales, narwhals live in pods that typically range from three to eight narwhals strong. However, they have been spotted in pods of up to 20 members. Having large lungs means that narwhals can dive for a long time at depths up to 4,500 feet. They also eat a lot more in the winter than the summer, leaving people to theorize this is to avoid competition from other whales who typically eat more in the summer.
How do people study narwhals?
One of the reasons that so little is known about narwhals is because they are incredibly tough to study. Their love of icy conditions means that reaching them is tough. Plus, narwhals are strong and fast, spending most of their time deep underwater away from humans. Even today, most research on narwhals relies on technology and devices that can be sent underwater to capture the animals in their natural habitat.
Narwhals are the true unicorns of the sea, but unlike their mythical cousins, they are real. Just because they are real doesn’t mean we know a lot about these strange whales. Thankfully, each year brings new information on narwhals that helps paint a picture of how they live and thrive so far underwater away from the rest of the world.