Narwhal

By: Davanna Higgins

Description

• Narwhals are medium-sized whales, and are around the same size as beluga whales.

• Narwhals change color as they age. Newborns are a blue-gray, juveniles are blue-black and adults are a mottled gray. Old narwhals are nearly all white.

• Females occasionally grow a tusk and males have been seen with two, or none. The largest tusk ever measured was a massive 267 centimetres. Narwhals have a conical body shape and flexible neck with a mottled blue, black, grey and white body fading onto the underside.

• The narwhal is born gray but develops a black-and-white mottled coat as he grows. Males are up to 16 feet in length, while females are some 13 feet. The male can weigh up to 4,000 pounds and the female is a more slender 2,200 pounds. Only male narwhals have a tusk, which is 6 to 9 feet long. This tusk grows out of his lower jaw. Its doesn't appear to have any single purpose, and as scientists point out, it isn't essential to the narwhal's survival because females don't have a tusk and live longer than males. The narwhal's typical lifespan is around 50 years.

• Narwhals adapted a very flexible neck in order to scan the deep waters of the arctic better. This allows the narwhal to capture more prey. Another adaptation that narwhals have is that they are able to hold their breath for up to twenty minutes in order to dive down and hide from predators such as orcas, walruses, and polar bears. Narwhals are also able to survive the cold waters of the arctic because of their thick layer of blubber that retains heat. Narwhals do not swim very fast because their flippers are not very well developed and they lack dorsal fins.

Habitat

• Unlike some whale species that migrate, narwhals spend their lives in the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Most narwhals winter for up to five months under sea ice in the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait area.

• Unlike some whale species that migrate, narwhals spend their lives in the Arctic waters of Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia. Most narwhals winter for up to five months under sea ice in the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait area.

• Narwhals are amid the strangest, and most resilient animals in the Arctic. In fact, many people do not believe narwhals exist. A narwhal has the body of a dolphin/whale hybrid, and the “horn” of the fictitious unicorn. This “horn,” which is a tooth, adds to the tales of fantasy surrounding the Narwhal and its origins.

Food Web

Reproduction

• The narwhal only bears one calf at a time, and nurses for 20 months. This lengthy period of nursing gives the calve time to learn how to hunt for itself. At birth the calves are about 1.6 meters in length, weigh about 80 kilograms, and have 25 millimeters in thickness of blubber. The mother narwhal’s milk is very rich in fat, which will help the calf grow a fatter layer of blubber. After the calf is born, it stays near the mothers back because it may need help swimming. The mother and calf are very close. The narwhal normally has a birthing interval of 3 years.

Threats

Narwhals are mostly hunted by polar bears. In addition, the narwhal’s habitats is threatened by the effects of climate change and pollution. Their small population size, limited range, and reliance on Arctic fish that are also being affected by climate-induced available food changes. One recent study concluded that the narwhal might be even more sensitive to the impacts of climate change than the polar bear.