Sea creature of the week!

Oct 24 2011

Narwhal

Scientific Name: Monodon Monoceros

Family: Monodontidae

Home: Our whale friend can be spotted year-round in the Arctic ocean, primarily in Canadian, Greenlandic and Russian waters. It is rare that this sea unicorn go south of 65ºN. In the winter it primarily occupies deeper waters under the densely packed ice in areas such as the Davis Straight and Baffin Bay. While it prefers to spend its summer vacation in coastal shallow waters where it meets up with other pods.

Physical characteristics: This magnificent Arctic sea dweller can grow to be up to 16 feet in length with females weighing in at over 2000 pounds and males weighing up to 3500 pounds. The Narwhal’s black and white patterned skin tends to get lighter with age. This creature’s most distinguishing characteristic, however, is the 7-10 foot long tusk which protrudes from the left side of its upper jaw. This protruding tusk is actually an oversized incisor tooth packed with nerve endings; making it highly sensitive. It is speculated that this overgrown tooth is utilized in determining the salinity of the water and to detect prey.

Food: The unicorn of the sea is quite picky when it comes to food. Thankfully it is a highly specialized Arctic hunters. The majority of it’s food consumption occurs in the winter months when chilling out in the deep sea. They have been recorded to dive up to 5000 feet below the ocean’s surface in their quest for prey which is compost mainly of Greenland halibut, Arctic and Atlantic cod, shrimp and squid. To a lesser extend, they have also been known to consume wolffish, capelin, and skate eggs.

Fun facts:

•  The Narwhal’s sole living relative is the beloved Beluga whale!

• “Tusking”, which occurs during the summer months, is when male Narwhals rub their tusks together. It is believed they do so to create and maintain a social hierarchy within the pod!

• The Narwhal’s tusk, like a male peacock’s feathers, is thought to be a secondary sexual characteristic; meaning that that it is not directly related to increasing sexual reproduction, rather it simply makes it more likely to attract a mate to reproduce with. In this case bigger may mean better :P


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