Monday, January 11, 2010

Never heard of a Narwhal!?

Narwhal (Monodon monocerus)
Narwhal's hold a special place in my heart as they definitely could be categorized as one of the many "freaks of nature." The narwhal's common name means "corpse whale" (nahvalr) in old Norwegian, from the spots and blotches of colour resembling that of a drowned person. These medium-sized cetaceans dwell only in the Arctic Ocean and adjacent seas. Thought to be a secondary sex charcteristic like the antlers on a deer, the male narwhal is unique among cetaceans, in having a tooth that continues to grow until it becomes lancelike, hollow and can reach up to 9 feet! Although this unicornlike tusk serves no evolutionary purpose, they have fun with it when they joust with their fellow narwhal buds. Centuries ago the narwhal's tusk was sold by hunters as a "unicorn's horn" for ten times its weight in gold! In September 1969, the New York Aquarium became the first to exhibit a live narwhal, a calf that lived for only a few weeks.

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