24 Interesting Facts About the Narwhal, a.k.a. Unicorn of the Sea

Fact about the narwhal (unicorn of the sea)
The legendary animal, narwhal has managed to mystify and intrigue us all! Buzzle gives some really interesting information and some facts about this one-of-a-kind mammal to feast your eyes upon.
Rich in vitamin sea!
One ounce of narwhal skin contains more vitamin C than an ounce of orange. It has been the main source of nutrition for many Inuit populations.
Lying in the frozen underbelly of the arctic waters is a creature so elusive and mystifying that it is thought to be a myth by many! Indeed, this creature does seem to be a myth. With a long spiraling tusk that appears to be protruding from its nose, it is befittingly nicknamed as the Unicorn of the sea. Yes, we are talking about the truly unique beings - the narwhals.
The name "Narwhal" comes for the Old Norse word nár that means corpse as its color resembles the decaying body of a drowned sailor. This water-borne mammal is a close relative of the beluga whale, bottlenose dolphin, harbor porpoises, and orcas.

Unfortunately, unlike their other relatives, these animals can't be kept in captivity as they do not seem to survive for more than a few months. As a result, very little is known about this animal.
Narwhal Facts
Taxonomic Classification
Narwhal swimming under water
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Mammalia
Order: Artiodactyla
Family: Monodontidae
Genus: Monodon
Species: M. monoceros
Distribution
▶ Narwhals are found mostly in the Atlantic and Russian areas in the Arctic Ocean. They are commonly spotted in the north of Hudson Bay, Hudson Strait, and the Baffin Bay off the eastern coast of Greenland. The population of this animal seems to be concentrated around the inlets of Northern Canada, fjords and western Greenland.
Feeding Habits
▶ These deep-sea mammals seem to be on a restricted diet consisting of the Greenland Halibut, Arctic Cod, Cuttlefish, shrimp, and Squid. Sometimes wolffish, capelins, and skates are also eaten by narwhals.

▶ As they lack dentition in their mouth, these animals feed by swimming close to the prey and then sucking it in with an incredible force.

▶ Arctic cod and Greenland Halibut make the majority of their feed.

▶ While hunting, they can dive up to a depth of 4,900 ft. up to 15 times a day. These dives can last for around 25 minutes.
Behavior
▶ These animals tend to swim in the shallow water in summer and then migrate to the deep sea in winters where they live under the thick pack of ice.

▶ They usually travel in groups of 10-100 called pods. 5-10 of such pods congregate off shore every summer.

▶ These groups may be those of females with their young ones, called nurseries, or they may be of young adults or adult males. A large aggregation of pods may have over a thousand individuals.

▶ Like most toothed whales, narwhals use different sounds like "clicks", "whistles", and "knocks" to navigate, hunt for food, and communicate.
Anatomy
▶ Narwhals are medium-sized whales whose size may range from 13 ft. to 18 ft. Males are slightly larger than females. An average adult can weigh up to 3,500 pounds.

▶ The skin of a narwhal is the darkest at birth, and develops white and brown mottled patches with age. Old males are sometimes seen to turn complete white.

▶ These aquatic mammals do not have a dorsal fin; it might be an adaptation that helps them swim under ice.
The most unique feature of these animals is the tusk they bear.
▶ The tusk is basically the canine tooth that projects from the left side of the upper jaw that forms a left-handed helical spiral.

▶ It is a hollow structure that can weigh around 22 pounds and can grow up to lengths of 10 ft.

▶ Some females may also bear a tusk sometimes. One out of five hundred males may possess two tusks.

▶ These tusks are sensory organs that are highly innervated that help detect even the slightest changes in water. It may also play a role in mate selection and male-to-male rivalry.

▶ These tusks are usually soft and flexible on the outside, internally they may have a rigid core.
Reproduction
▶ Gestation period may last for 14 months. Females reach sexual maturity at the age of 6-8 yeas, while males take about 10-13 years to be sexually mature.

▶ A female gives birth to a single offspring only, lactation period is of about 20 months. The milk is rich in fat.

▶ Mothers and calves stay close while traveling, the calf looks at its mother for assistance and learning different skills for survival.
Lifespan
▶ The average lifespan of this mammal is about 50 years. They are usually killed by suffocation when the sea freezes over. Most young adults usually die of starvation.
Predators
▶ Narwhals are largely killed by humans. Natural predators of this marine mammal include polar bears, killer whales, Greenland sharks, and walruses.
Conservation Status
▶ The current population size of these mammals seem to be around 75,000. There are evidences depicting a significant decline in the population of these mammals due to climate change and habitat destruction. Inuit people are allowed to hunt these animals for their subsistence.

▶ The International Union For Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has classified this mammal as nearly threatened in its Red List.