The "unicorn of the ocean," the narwhal (Monodon monoceros)
is one of the rarest whales in the world. Narwhals are very elusive
and mysterious in nature, and very distinct in appearance due to
the large horn-like tusk on their faces. The tusk is actually a
tooth that grows from the upper jaw of male narwhals.
live in small groups.
Narwhals consume squid, fish and shrimp.
Narwhal population estimates indicate around 45,000-50,000 individuals.
Narwhals are mostly found in the Atlantic and Russian waters
of the Arctic. They have been known to travel around Greenland to
Narwhals generally move slowly, but are known to be remarkably
quick when chased by predators. They prefer to stay near the surface
of the ocean, but can dive up to 5,000 feet. Narwhals are migratory
and move closer to the shore in the summer, while moving out to
sea and living under packed ice in the winter months.
Most narwhals travel in pods of 10-100 individuals and sometimes
in much larger groups. They communicate with various sounds like
squeals, trills and clicks. The males often cross tusks in a behavior
known as tusking. This may be a form of dueling, friendly
contact or cleaning the tooth.
Mating Season: March to May.
Gestation: Up to 16 months.
Litter Size: 1 calf.
Females give birth every 3 years or so and can nurse their calves
for over a year. Calves tend to be brown with no spots.
Narwhals are mostly hunted by polar bears and orcas. Native Inuit
people are also allowed to hunt this whale legally.
In addition, the narwhals habitat is threatened by the
effects of climate change and pollution. Their small population
size, limited range, and reliance on Arctic fish that are also being
affected by climate-induced available food changes, make them extremely
vulnerable. One recent study concluded that the narwhal might be
even more sensitive to the impacts of climate change than the polar