First thing’s first. What’s a narwhal? A narwhal is a marine mammal similar to a beluga whale that lives in the Arctic. Most people can recognize a narwhal on site due to the fact that they have crazy horns growing out of their heads like unicorns. The horn, however, is actually a tooth. The left canine of the male narwhal can grow up to nine feet long and protrude through the upper lip like a great spike. We love the mysterious nature of the Arctic narwhal but come on, guys. Tell us. What’s with the horn?
New studies in narwhal behavior and horn utilization build upon the information we already know about the majestic narwhal. So, what do we already know? We know how these beautiful creatures see in the dark as they travel under massive chunks of ice that block out the sunlight and that the horn might come into play during that navigation process. We also know that the males of the species regularly use their horns to swordfight and that the horn indicates the size of the male’s testicles to the females, but that there are likely more reasons for the evolution of this odd tool.
New footage captured by drones shows a pod of narwhals stunning cod by giving them a little smack with their horns, which dazes the fish long enough for the whales to eat them. This is yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal, but it’s certainly obvious in the video what the narwhals are doing. They repeatedly and deliberately approach cod, strike them with a flick of the head, and devour them.
Narwhals navigate the deep, dark depths in the same way as many other marine mammals: echolocation. That is by emitting a quick series of clicks, about 1,000 per second, and then mapping their surroundings by detecting the echoes with soft pads on their bottom jaws. What’s special about narwhals is that their sonar can be focused onto the landscape in sections, allowing them to piece together an extremely details reconstruction.
The horns are now thought to provide additional details and tracking within the sonar image collected by the whale. Researchers have found that the tooth is free of any hard enamel casing, leaving the cementum channels of the tooth free to take in seawater down to the pulp of the tooth. These channels deliver information from the narwhal’s environment to its brain, helping it to track prey or detect a potential mate in the vicinity.
Rapid climate change and human activity have dropped narwhal populations to threatened levels by diminishing their food populations and by pushing narwhals to venture from their safe, isolated habitat. Interspecies pop formations between belugas and narwhals have been seen recently, indicating a change in those specimens’ ability to join a suitable pod of their own. Further research is needed to understand the impact we have on these creatures and to prevent further damage.
Splashing Apparel donates 100% of the proceeds from every purchase to the research and conservation of beautiful species like the narwhal.
Find narwhal clothing and accessories like this Geometric Narwhal Whale Necklace and Unicorn of the Sea Women’s Tee, and just in time for Christmas, the Candy Cane Narwhal Christmas Mug. Celebrate your love for these gorgeous creatures by doing your part to fund research that will save their lives.