Narwhals: the Aquatic Unicorns of the Arctic

10 narwhal facts: tusks, diet, habitat, and more

Though narwhals are one of the least common whale species we see during our excursion cruises, a trip to the Arctic ( specifically Greenland and Svalbard ) always offers us the possibility of encountering these elusive whales .
The mention “ narwhal ” comes from Old Norse : nár means “ cadaver ” and refers to the giant ‘s dappled gray appearance, which was thought to resemble the lividness of submerge sailors. In Inuit, however, the narwhal is called qilalugaq qernertag, meaning “ one that is dear at curving itself toward the sky. ” This name refers to the narwhal habit of curving its back downward when dive, then curving its head up when lying on its back, pointing its tusk to the flip. interim, the narwhal ‘s scientific mention, Monodon monoceros, translates to “ one-tooth one-horn, ” which is accurate for reasons we ‘ll discuss late .
Like the beluga whales to whom they are related, narwhals rarely appear during our cruises – which makes seeing them all the more special. therefore if you decide to embark on an Arctic cruise, keep the following narwhal facts in mind should you be lucky adequate to spot this beloved aquatic unicorn .

1. Narwhals are rare to see but easy to spot

We might rarely encounter narwhals, but when we do they ‘re not hard to identify. Narwhals have small rounded heads and curtly flippers with retrousse tips. Males are larger than females, with the largest of the species reaching around five meters ( 16 feet ) hanker. Their skin color changes with senesce, which we will explain below. Newborn narwhals, juveniles, adults, and previous narwhals are all distinctly colored. Narwhals live between 30 – 40 years, and their foreman predators are killer whale ( killer whales ).

2. You can determine a narwhal’s age by its color

If you spot a narwhal during your arctic trip, you will be able to make a relatively educated think about its age plainly by looking at the discolor of its clamber. neonate narwhals are blue-grey, but they turn blue-black as they advance into their juvenile years. pornographic narwhals have spotted grey skin, and older narwhals become about completely white .

3. Suction feeding is the narwhal way

Some people think the narwhal uses its ivory as a way to spear or snare food, but this is not the character. The narwhal is a sucking self-feeder, like most whales, swallowing its food whole. Narwhals live chiefly on squid, rockfish, Greenland halibut, shrimp, gripe, pivotal tease, flounder, and Arctic cod .

4. Narwhals are closely related to beluga whales

As mentioned above, the beluga is a proportional of the narwhal – the closest proportional, in fact, and they have adapted similarly for the harsh Arctic conditions. Narwhals and belugas do not have dorsal fins, which makes it possible for them to break through thin patches of sea frosting to breathe. In some cases, narwhals and belugas have even bred together, leading to at least one documented beluga-narwhal hybrid .

5. Sonar is a narwhal specialty

A narwhal ‘s horn enables it to see like few other animals on Earth, giving it some of the most accurate sonar ever recorded. Narwhals make clicking sounds ( up to 1,000 per second ), using the echoes to reconstruct their surroundings in the water. The narwhal tusk, sensitive to even the slightest stimulation, is thought to far help echolocation by letting ocean water in through pores in the horn ’ s tip. Sound waves travel through the horn, refer boldness endings at the basis, and produce signals in the narwhal ‘s genius that help it determine its surroundings.

6. Narwhals prefer pack ice

Like all whales, narwhals have to regularly return to the surface of the sea to breathe. But because narwhals live predominantly below the pack ice rink, they have to be well accustomed to utilizing the few areas of open water available to them during the Arctic winter. This is impressive when you consider that only about five percentage of the Arctic pack ice might have sufficient breathing holes between February and April .

7. Diving deep is no problem for narwhals

In summer, narwhals typically dive to depths between 30 and 300 meters ( 100 – 1,000 feet ), but the majority of the time they live between the surface and 50 meters ( 165 feet ) of it. During the fall, narwhal prima donna depths and durations increase when migrating to their winter grounds. At these wintering grounds, narwhals stay in a limited sphere for about six months and make small movements with the crack of the pack ice .
Narwhals take some of the deepest dives known for a marine mammal at this time : up to 800 meters ( 2,600 feet ), sometimes even 1,500 meters ( 4,900 feet ). Over this winter time period, narwhals dive to these depths around 18 – 25 times per day. The duration of these deep dives is around 25 minutes. At these depths, the conditions are life threatening, as pressure exceeds 2,200 PSI in the black urine .

8. Narwhals are natives of the far north

In subject it ‘s not already clear, narwhals are a distinctly northerly species. We do not see them in Antarctica, the Falklands, South Georgia, or any other region of the Southern Hemisphere. And while we only encounter narwhals in easterly Greenland and round Svalbard during our summer voyages, scientists have found winter home ranges for narwhals in Baffin Bay and many early areas around the ball.

9. Deep water adaptations aid the narwhal

Due to some key adaptations, narwhals can survive at rightfully staggering depths. They have a elastic ridicule batting cage, enabling their bodies to be highly compressed. once their rib cage compresses, their lungs “ collapse, ” and the vent inwardly is channelled into their trachea arrangement. Narwhals besides have a high concentration of myoglobin, doubly american samoa much as some seals and eight times angstrom much as sublunar mammals. In fact, the distinctive narwhal can carry 70 liters, or 18.5 gallons, of oxygen in its lungs, blood, and muscles .
additionally, narwhals have muscles designed for survival swimming, demanding less oxygen than species like dolphins, which have fast-twitch muscle fibers. Narwhals besides have streamlined bodies, enabling them to glide effortlessly through the urine. Furthermore, narwhals exhale before dives, limiting the accelerator exchange in their blood. This besides limits the probability of decompression sickness .

10. The narwhal tusk is actually a tooth

possibly the most discourse ( and decidedly the most distinct ) narwhal feature is its horn, which is actually not a tusk at all. If our verbiage in previous paragraph misled you, allow us to set the record straightaway : The long ivory protrusion spiraling counter-clockwise out of a narwhal ‘s head is actually a boastfully canine tooth. Some male narwhals have two of them, while only 15 percentage of females have this tooth at all .

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