5 Sharp Facts About Narwhals

Photo Credit: Public Domain/DYK

Narwhals are the unicorns of the sea, so what’s not to love about them?

But even if you agree that they’re adorable, you might not know a ton about the mysterious sea creatures.

Let’s fix that, shall we?

5. Their skin is rich in vitamin C.

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Narwhal shot while on assignment with the @ourplanet crew for Netflix. Amazing moments with a hard working crew @sophie_lanfear @byjamiemcpherson @jdouganderson, amongst others. These guys are dedicated to bringing you the best wildlife has to offer and showing the world the importance to keeping our wilderness area’s wild! If you have not already, make sure you watch the series on Netflix! #explorecanada#narwhal#netflix#bbc#n#bbcnature#ocean#life#movie#experience#wildlife#arctic#canada#whale#sea#conservation#wildlife

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This is weird, but it’s true.

There is as much vitamin C in one ounce of narwhal skin as in an ounce of oranges. In fact, narwhal skin is the primary source of vitamins for peoples indigenous to the Arctic (and the reason humans have been able to survive there for so long).

4. Its tusk is actually a tooth.

The narwhal’s tusk is actually a large front left tooth protruding from the upper lip. The right front tooth is much smaller, and their teeth in general are not what you’d expect.

“No big surprise,” says Martin Nweeia, a clinical instructor at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. “But to find a tooth [the tusk] that is soft on the outside and has its most dense part around the pulp was completely odd.”

3. There are no narwhals in captivity.

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Narwhals are unlike any other whale. Males posess a long tusk (actually a canine tooth) protruding from the upper jaw that grows up to 9.8 feet long. Researchers believe the tusks are used by males to establish dominance within pods, but since narwhals are endemic to the reclusive Arctic seas, it is hard to be certain. Narwhals also have an impressive ability to dive great depths more than 5,900 feet below the surface – one of the deepest dives of all marine mammals. It's possible that narwhals use their tusks to dig for prey on the seafloor, but without access to their environment, these whales will remain a mystery. . Learn more about narwhals in our Marine Life Encyclopedia at OCEANA.ORG/MARINE-LIFE . ?: Paul Nicklen #narwhal #ocean #oceans #marinelife #arctic

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Narwhals are closely related to beluga whales, but unlike their family members, narwhals do not thrive in captivity. Several were captured and kept in the 1960s and 1970s, but none lived longer than a few months.

2. The tusk/tooth can be over 10 feet long – and bend quite a long way.

Narwhal tusks grow throughout their entire lives and can reach lengths of up to 10 feet. Oddly, the fact that the tusk is soft on the outside and harder on the inside means it’s flexible – it can bend a long way without cracking or breaking.

1. Scientists aren’t sure what its “horn” is for in the first place.

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One of the things that fascinates me most about the ocean is how little we know. There are so many mysteries and secrets hidden in the depths of the sea – so many things still to be discovered. Narwhals are sometimes called the unicorns of the sea, and the males are most recognizable by their ivory tusks; a long canine tooth covered in thousands of nerve endings and pores that protrudes from the upper jaw. In 2017, SeaLegacy celebrated the announcement of what will become the Tallurutiup Imanga/Lancaster Sound Marine Protected Area in northern Canada. Parks Canada and the QIA (Qikqtani Inuit Assocation) are still negotiating final steps in a process started in 2007, and initially proposed as far back as the 1980s. In 2019, we're closer than ever to seeing the boundaries of the Tallurutiup Imanga officially protected under Canadian law. Success in conservation always takes longer than it should, but patience is crucial – and always worth it. #TurningTheTide #BornToIce #narwhal #marineprotectedarea

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Theories abound – that it’s a weapon, an accessory for wooing mates, or, most recently, an environmental sensor.

According to Nweeia’s recent research, the tusk is porous and full of nerves, meaning it may able to gauge things like water pressure, temperature, and salinity.

I now officially have a new favorite animal – move over, giraffes!

What’s your favorite animal? Have you ever seen a narwhal in person? Tell us about it in the comments!