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Narwhal Facts and Photos on this Whale with a Large Tusk

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The Narwhal, Monodon monoceros, lives entirely in the Arctic, and is distinctive for its long tusk which extends out from the upper jaw of the males and can reach nine feet long. The tusk is a tooth that has grown out, and is straight with a spiral twist up to a polished smooth tip. It is also called the “unicorn of the sea”.  Female narwhals produce tusks only rarely, and males rarely produce two tusks.

The narwhal is a predator, feeding on benthic fish at depths of around 3000 feet under the Arctic pack ice, where it uses echo location to find its prey, which is mostly halibut, cod, shrimp and squid. The world population is estimated to be around 75,000 animals, located primarily in the fjords and inlets of Northern Canada and western Greenland. They are hunted by orca and polar bears and will retreat to shallow water to avoid being killed.

Male narwhals weigh up to 3500 pounds and females around 2500 pounds. They have a black and white mottled coloration, that becomes more white as they age. They have small, round eyes, a small mouth, and a ridge along their back instead of a dorsal fin. They are insulated from the Arctic cold with four inches of fat.

Narwhal are migratory, moving towards the coasts in summer where they can be found in groups of up to 100. Males will rub their tusks together, “tusking”, which is believed to be a social behavior, may be a greeting, or perhaps to help delouse each others’ tusk. In winter, they move into the dense ice pack, surviving in small holes in the ice where they are usually found in groups of five to ten animals. They are famous for their deep dives, sometimes up to 4,500 feet, the deepest dives ever recorded for a marine mammal, taking 25 minutes to complete.

Narwhal are hunted by Inuit people in Northern Canada and Greenland for meat and ivory, and a regulated subsistence hunt continues to this day. The tusk was traditionally used for tools, but now it can command $4,500 in the marketplace. It is illegal to import whale products into the United States so the tusks are sold to Eurasian countries.

It is considered particularly vulnerable to climate change issues, due to its small geographical location and specialized diet.

All narwhals that have been brought into captivity have only lived for a few months.

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Picture of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

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Stock photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, illustration

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Image of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, fluke, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, Canadian Arctic

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Photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, group at surface, Arctic Ocean

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Picture of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

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Stock photo of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic

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Image of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

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Illustration of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, male with tusk

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Picture of a dead narwhal, Monodon monoceros, showing spiral tusk, with Inuit hunters, Canadian Arctic

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Stock photo of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic

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Image of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, "tusking", Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic

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Photo of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic

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Picture of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, fluking, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

Picture #: 008216

Stock photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

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Image of narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Northwest Territories, Canada, Arctic Ocean

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Photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, showing tusk, Canadian Arctic

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Picture of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, showing tusk, Canadian Arctic

Picture #: 011212

Stock photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, illustration

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Image of narwhal, Monodon monoceros

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Photo of a narwhal, Monodon monoceros, aerial view, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada, Canadian Arctic

Picture #: 014184

 

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