The Narwhal (sometimes spelled incorrectly as Narwhale) is an arctic marine mammal belonging to the whale species. It is most often found in Canadian coastal waters and to a lesser extent in the sea off of Greenland, Russia and Norway. It is a cetacean, along with dolphins, whales and porpoises but what makes it unique is that it has an elongated ivory tusk extending from its jaw. Scientists who study Narwhals have found that, although extremely rare, it is possible for them to even grow a second tusk. When fully grown, these mammals reach a length and weight which is similar to that of an adult Beluga whale! Find out all about Narwhals in the list of facts below which are broken down into general, descriptive and interesting facts. This page is written for both kids and adults, where everyone will learn the answer the question "what is a Narwhal?".
General Narwhal Facts
Narwhals are carnivores who prefer to eat squid, shrimp and various fish such as cod and halibut.
During the coldest months, Narwhals tend to migrate off shore so they do not get trapped in the ice which can make them vulnerable to hunters and other animals.
These arctic animals often swim in pods, or groups, which usually range from 2 - 20 Narwhals, but numbers can reach over 1,000.
Although male Narwhals can grow one and sometimes two tusks, females generally do not grow a tusk that can be seen.
It is believed that the total population is around 80,000.
The gestation period for a Narwhal is about 14 months while the nursing period can last up to two years.
They are warm-blooded mammals that breathe air and give birth to their offspring.
Narwhal Descriptive Facts
Short flippers help the narwhals navigate the water while they use their rear flukes to propel them forward.
The color of the Narwhal is darkest at birth and lightens and forms more white patches as they mature. By the time they are old, they are almost completely white.
Narwhals can grow as long as 17 feet (5.18 meters) while their tusk alone can grow up to ten feet (3.04 meters).
Although the tusk is very prominent on male Narwhals, it is not known exactly what they are used for. Some scientists believe it is used in mating rituals and to show dominance among the males.
Interesting Narwhal Facts
It is believed that healthy Narwhals can live up to 50 years.
They are called the unicorn of the sea because of the (usually) one tusk that protrudes from their head.
Narwhals can not only stay underwater for up to 25 minutes during a dive, but they can also dive down about 5,000 feet (1524 meters) underwater.
Echolocation (using sound to locate objects) helps Narwhals in finding food and also in navigating their surroundings.
High pitched sounds such as whistles, squeaks and clicks are used by Narwhals to communicate with one another.
Because Narwhals have ivory tusks, they are often the target of unscrupulous hunters in both Canada and Greenland.