Narwhals

Morgan Dykstra, Period 9 May 16, 2016

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Habitat

You might think that unicorns live in mystical forests with fairies and magic...well, no. Narwhals live near the arctic ocean up near the north pole. Mostly, they are distributed from Greenland to around Canadian borders. In the summer, the narwhal pods will migrate to estuaries, deep fjords, and/or bays (Turnpike, 84). Depending on the temperature, some pods will migrate earlier or later if the habitat is unsuitable.
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Movement

Narwhals, put simply, swim. To swim they move their tails up and down, obviously (there are some theories that their horn helps with speed). They are also very social, so the mammals will swim in pods. The pods are for protection, mostly (Turnpike, 85). Although, the males and females will actually swim in separate pods even though the males will fight each other all the time. The females will stay together to keep their babies from getting separted or hurt.

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Body Covering

Narwhals have skin (often referred to as muktuk) that is a blue-ish grey color when they are born but as they grow old, their skin begins to take on more of a white appearance with spots of their original color (SIRS, Narwhal). I guess a narwhal's skin is like our hair. As the years come and go, so does the color. The sad thing is, some people like to hunt narwhals for sport because their muktuk, which has many beneficial vitamins and is eaten raw (Turnpike, 85). Talk about eating weird.
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Diet

A narwhal's choice of food consists of squid, shrimp, arctic cod and rockfish. Yum, yum, yum. Most of these creatures live very deep in the arctic ocean and the narwhals must dive very deep to reach them. When they get to the actual point of EATING the fish, a narwhal will create a sort of whirlpool effect and it will suck the fish in. Surprisingly, the tusk serves no purpose in the hunting or eating.

Reproduction

A mother narwhal is able to carry her calf for up to a year. She is old enough to reproduce after 5 years (males after 8) and she gives birth after 15 months (Narwhal Network, WordPress). Unlike humans, a female can have only one baby at a time and then nurses for 20 months (Nrwhal Network, WordPress). 20 months leaves a LOT of time for learning, so while the calf is nursing, the mother will teach her young how to swim, as well as hunt (Narwhal Network, WordPress). Also, while on milk, the baby will grow a thicker layer of fat from the milk, making the 25 millimeters of fat from birth grow up to 50mm (Narwhal Network, WordPress)! As with many animals, a calf is born with the instant knowledge of its mother's call. A narwhal calf is born with all the different callings. Luckily, the mother doesn't have to teach her offspring the difference between distress calls, warnings and other simple vocalizations.
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Adptations

Narwhals, as you know, live in arctic waters. Sometimes, the water will freeze over and prevent the narwhals from breathing. Hmm... How in the world will they poke a hole through the surface of the ice? Tricky, tricky. Well, the narwhals are quite smart and use the very effective horns that protrude from their upper lip to puncture the sheet of ice for a breathing hole. Anther adaptation is for males to "choose their bride." Scientists haven't found an exact reason, but a male will sometimes show off his horn as a show of masculinity to win the heart of a female. A male will also show his opponents that he is the best, depending on the length and size of the tusk.

Other Info

  • Nicknamed "The Unicorn of the Sea"
  • Females usually don't have horns or, if they do, very short ones.
  • Male narwhals actually have two tusks. One is very prominent and the other is so short it is covered underneath the upper lip.
  • Although the narwhal is a whale, it does not have a dorsal fin. Why? A dorsal fin increases the loss of heat. That is not good, especially in the arctic waters.
  • In medieval times, people used to think that a narwhal's tusk was a magical wand that could detect whether or not their enemies had poisoned their food.

Works Cited