By OLIVIA MINGUELA, age 11
Easily recognized by its long, spiral tusk, the narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is also known as the Unicorn of the Sea. A narwhal is a whale that has mottled grey skin with a single spiral “tusk” protruding from its upper jaw. The tusk has been highly valued since the Middle Ages, when they were thought to be magical unicorn horns.
Since tusks are worth so much money, there has been an increase in hunting these whales. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has therefore classified narwhals as a Near Threatened species.
Many people save narwhals by setting up special laws against hunting. For example, there is a limit on the number of narwhals that can be hunted and every tusk obtained must be labeled. It is important to save narwhals because they play an important role in the overall health of the marine environment.
DID YOU KNOW?
- Narwhals live in the Arctic waters surrounding Russia, Norway and Canada.
- Narwhals have been found to dive about a mile deep to look for food, such as Greenland halibut, cod and shrimp.
- A narwhal tusk is actually a tooth that can be as long as 10 feet. However, scientists are not entirely sure of its purpose.
- Adults can weigh between between 1,800 and 3,500 pounds and can grow up to 20 feet long!
- Narwhals can live as long as 50 years.