DescriptionNarwhals grow to a maximum length of 5.8 m (excluding tusk). They have no dorsal fin. Body colour is grey at birth, almost black in juveniles, and white ventrally and mottled on the back in adults.
NarwhalNarwhal (Monodon monoceros), once known as sea unicorn, is a toothed WHALE of arctic seas. It is best known for its straight spiralled tusk, which is one of 2 teeth in the upper jaw and projects through the lip, reaching up to 3 m in length. The tusk, found in adult males and rarely in females, may be used to establish and maintain dominance among males. Double-tusked narwhals occur occasionally.
Narwhals grow to a maximum length of 5.8 m (excluding tusk). They have no dorsal fin. Body colour is grey at birth, almost black in juveniles, and white ventrally and mottled on the back in adults. Old individuals can be almost completely white, with dark spots largely confined to the dorsal surface.
Distribution and Habitat
The narwhal's Canadian distribution is centered in DAVIS STRAIT, BAFFIN BAY, LANCASTER SOUND and the channels and FJORDS of the ARCTIC ARCHIPELAGO, as well as Hudson Strait, Repulse Bay and north Hudson Bay. Another population inhabits the Greenland Sea to the east of Greenland and around Svalbard. In winter the ice-adapted narwhal is rarely found far from pack ice. It survives in the heavy pack ice by using narrow cracks and small pools of open water to breathe, and eats mainly FISH, SQUID and CRUSTACEANS. Rapidly changing SEA ICE conditions in the Arctic are seen as a serious potential threat to narwhals; it may lead to increased frequency of ice entrapment, which can result in mass mortality from starvation, suffocation or predation. The narwhal population in the Canadian Arctic archipelago was estimated at more than 60 000 animals based on aerial survey data from 2002-2004. Numbers in the Hudson Strait, Repulse Bay and north Hudson Bay region were estimated at about 12 000 in 2011.
Relationship with Humans
Traditionally, narwhals were hunted by Native peoples in Canada and Greenland primarily for meat, oil, sinew and muktuk (skin and adhering blubber). A market for narwhal ivory developed during the Middle Ages in Europe and the Far East. Today, INUIT hunt partly for muktuk and partly to supply a global market for tusk ivory. Narwhals are not held in captivity anywhere.