|About the Tusk|
The narwhal, Monodon monoceros, has long fascinated sea explorers, scientists and aristocracy. This arctic whale is characterized by a single spiraled tusk extending six to nine feet, emerging from the upper jaw and through the lips of adult males. Males have the characteristic left front tooth extending approximately 8 feet and variable depending on the whale and the age. The right tooth remains embedded in the skull and measures roughly one foot. Some females may exhibit a tusk, and in rare instances a male with two tusks has been observed.
Fetal narwhal initially develop six pairs of maxillary or upper teeth and two pairs of mandibular or lower teeth. Only one pair from the maxillary jaw develop and the others are vestigial. Tusk length, girth, morphology, wear and coloration are all quite variable. Male tusks are usually longer and have a wide variation in ridge morphology, often appearing as a gently wavelike form when looking down the horizontal axis. Female tusks are shorter, straighter, have a more regularly defined morphology, and do not collect as much proteinacious or algae on the surface, thus appearing whiter.
Often associated with the horn of the unicorn, the narwhal tooth has found its way into the books of scientific rarities and mythical tales, and has inspired legend and lore. So prized was the fabled tooth of the unicorn that in the 16th century Queen Elizabeth paid 10,000 pounds — equivalent to the cost of an entire castle — for one. The tooth is revered by many cultures around the world. In Japan two crossed narwhal teeth adorn the entrance to the Korninkaku Palace, and in Denmark multiple teeth comprise the frame. The royal scepter in England is made from the rare tusk.
Females weigh 1000 kg at maturity
Males weigh 1600 kg at maturity
At birth: 160 cm
Females: 360 cm at sexual maturity
Males: 420 cm at sexual maturity
Females: 400 cm at physical maturity
Males: 475 cm at physical maturity
Infant narwhal are grey or grayish brown. After two years, the skin becomes more mottled with overlapping white patches. The grey color becomes more blackened. Adults are white on the dorsum (belly side) and white and mottled on the ventral side. Older adults have only a narrow dark triangular band, extending from the back of the neck at its widest portion to a point ending on the midline of the back.
There is currently no reliable method for determining the age of narwhal.
Estimated at approximately 14 months.
Atlantic portion of the Arctic Ocean. Concentrating in the Canadian High Arctic, Baffin Bay, Davis Straight and northern Hudson Bay. Also found in smaller numbers in the Greenland Sea extending to Svalbard to Severnaya Zemlya off Russia.
Wide variation of clicks and whistles. Click amplitudes range from 19 kHz to 48 kHz. Click rates vary from 3-150 clicks/sec. Whistle amplitudes range from 300 Hz to 18 kHz.
Satellite tracking of narwhal reveal patterns that are both useful for government agencies and scientists to discover more information about ranges of migration and for insight into social behavior with various populations from Canada and Greenland.
Narwhals commonly dive to 1600 feet, though they can dive in excess of 3300 feet for more than a 20 minute period.
General Migration Pattern
During the winter months, narwhal live offshore near very heavy pack ice and move through leads and narrow channels during the spring ice melt.
Naming the Whale
Narwhal, Monodon monoceros, Qilalugaq qernartaq, are three descriptions of an artic whale characterized by its legendary tusk. Narwhal translates from Old Norse to mean “corpse-like,” describing the whale’s mottled black and white skin. Linneus documented the species name for the narwhal’s most unique feature, its unicorn-like single tusk found on most males. However, his naming of the whale in 1758 translates to mean “one tooth, one horn.” Narwhal have two teeth and no horns. The Inuit name translates to mean “the one that points to the sky,” describing the narwhal’s unique behavior of pointing the tusk straight upward out of the water.