Cruising the frozen Arctic ocean, narwhal has a mottled pattern, with blackish-brown spots on a white background, but older males can be almost entirely white. However, a newborn is blotchy gray and becomes whiter with age. The long tusk or canine tooth projects from the left side of the upper jaw, then through the lip, and forms a helix spiral.
There have been speculations about the function of the tusk including acting as a weapon, as an acoustic organ, as a secondary sex character, and for opening breathing holes in the ice. Their diet consists of shrimp, squid, and fishes such as Arctic cod. They are hunted for their meat, skin, and tusks that can be used for carvings; however, pollution from mining and oil extraction poses a greater threat.
Did you know?
- The only whales that have tusks, used to establish dominance in breeding season.
- Rarely (1 in 500 approx), specimens are found with two tusks.
- They have no dorsal fin.
- Narwals are hunted by orcas (killer whales) and polar bears.
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Terrestrial / Aquatic
Altricial / Precocial
Polygamous / Monogamous
Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic
Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal
Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Group
Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore
Migratory: Yes / No
Domesticated: Yes / No
Dangerous: Yes / No