Imagine you are in Greenland visiting your family and you decide to take pictures of the water. While you’re taking the pictures of the water, you see a long needle shape coming close to you. After the pictures are developed, you take a closer look. You realize the strange object was a …narwhal.
Where Do Narwhals Live?
Narwhals are whales that live in the Arctic Ocean. The Arctic Ocean is by Greenland, eastern Canada, and other northern countries. They swim mostly by those places. They are well known animals to the people in the north.
Narwhals have long tusks. Actually, it isn’t really a tusk, it is an over grown tooth! The tooth is 9 ft. long and is an ivory color. It is twisted. There are lines and ridges that swirl around the tooth from the beginning to the end. The tooth is shaped like a long skinny cone.
A narwhal weighs about a ton (2,000 pounds). That’s big, but the biggest whale in the world is the blue whale, which is 220 tons (440,000 pounds)! The biggest narwhal ever found was 3,500 pounds. The narwhal is one of the smallest whales, but is larger than dolphins, which are only 6 ft. long. Narwhals are from 10 to 20 ft. long (not including the tusks).
Narwhals are different colors. Some are dark on the top and light gray on the bottom. Their faces and fins are also dark gray. Some are cream with white, green, and brown spots. The narwhals have spots all over their bodies.
How They Hear
Narwhals do not have ears. They have the ability to feel echolocation, sound waves to figure out where other objects are located. They speak to each other in loud clicking, squeaking, and whistling sounds. They feel the sound waves and know what each wave means. If you were in the middle of the pod, you would hear so much noise that you could go deaf or wish you were deaf! A pod is a group of whales with up to 10 to 100 members in it.
What Do They Eat?
Scientists don’t exactly know what narwhals eat. They think narwhals eat (from cutting a narwhal open) what looked like squid, flatfish, and Greenland halibut, a type of fish. Scientists think they may catch their prey by making a loud noise that stuns the animal. Scientists know that the tusk is not used for hunting.
The word narwhal means "corpse whale" in Norwegian. They are called that because they swim on their backs and swim very slowly. They look like they’re dead! When they want to, they can swim very fast. In a race between a killer whale and a narwhal, a narwhal would win unless the killer whale caught up, attacked the narwhal and ate it.
What Narwhals Look Like
Narwhals don’t have dorsal fins. A dorsal fin is the fin that is on the top of a fish like a shark. Instead, they have a bump on their backs starting in the middle, which goes all of the way down the tails. They look something like a beluga whale. Narwhals have 4 inches of blubber to keep them warm in the freezing water.
Are Narwhals Endangered?
No, the narwhal is not endangered. There are 2,500 to 4,500 narwhals in the world. Narwhals are hunted by polar bears, walruses, killer whales, and people. People are their worst enemy because they kill them the most. A narwhal has never attacked a person as far as scientists know. If you ever see one, just look at it. It might become scared or mad if bothered.
Narwhals are useful to people. People burn the oil from the whale because it doesn’t smoke up while cooking or whatever they’re doing. They use the meat to feed the sled dogs and they eat the narwhal’s skin. It has been said to taste like seaweed and it has a lot of vitamin C in it. Years ago, they used to sell the tusks for tools, but that is not very common anymore. They cost $4,500 now.
Narwhals are very strange whales and very interesting, too. The narwhal is a small whale that has a long tusk. They are very important to the people of the north.
Trimble, Aaron. Artic Animals: Narwhal Whale. http://tqjunior.thinkquest.org/3500/Narwhal.html Date last visited: January 24, 2002.
Canada’s Digital Collections: Narwhals http://collections,ic,gc.ca/artic/species/marine/html Date last visited: January 24, 2002.
Papastavrou, Vassili, Whale. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993.
Berger, Gilda. Whales. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1987.
"Narwhal." Encyclopedia Britannica, 1958.