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Scientists solve mystery of the narwhal's tusk


Posted on Tuesday, 16 May, 2017 | Comment icon 9 comments

Narwhals are elusive and notoriously difficult to study. Image Credit: NOAA
Remarkable new footage has finally helped scientists to explain the purpose of the narwhal's 9ft 'horn'.
Native to the Arctic waters around Greenland, Canada, and Russia, the narwhal is a species of toothed whale that has been likened to the mythical unicorn due to its unique horn-like tusk.

Exactly what this tusk is used for however has long remained something of a mystery, but now new video footage recorded by two drones in the waters off the coast of north-east Canada has, for the first time, revealed that this mysterious protrusion is actually used to ram in to and stun fish.

Measuring up to 9ft in length, the tusk is essentially a canine tooth containing thousands of nerve endings which enable the animals to sense things moving in the water around them.

The new footage, which can be viewed below, was particularly difficult to capture as the species is notoriously shy which has also made studying the animals' behavior something of a challenge.


Source: Independent | Comments (9)

Tags: Narwhals

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by The Russian Hare on 16 May, 2017, 10:49
Kind of amazing the horn gave it so much of an advantage that it evolved to be so long.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Myles on 16 May, 2017, 11:28
I wonder if that is not the "purpose" of the horn as much as an after the fact benefit.    If you have it, you might as well use it in every way you can.  I do love this animal!
Comment icon #3 Posted by paperdyer on 16 May, 2017, 12:57
Swim softly and carry a big stick! It's interesting that the fish haven't gotten wise to this over the eons.  I know if I saw something that big headed my way I'd run or in thyeir case, swim as fast as I could and try to find some place to hide.
Comment icon #4 Posted by MJNYC on 16 May, 2017, 15:49
They are so beautiful.  
Comment icon #5 Posted by Future ghost on 16 May, 2017, 17:32
Wow, I never knew their tusks were actually 9 ft. long teeth. I learned something new today. Very cool animals!
Comment icon #6 Posted by Rolci on 16 May, 2017, 23:10
Firstly, a horn like that does not evolve full length straight away, but a small horn sounds useless if we accept the above theory to explain what it is supposed to be for. Secondly, if it is really that useful, why haven't a lot more species got it? And lastly, surely they survived just fine without horns before they evolved, so I do not see the great evolutionary advantage it offers which would result in the tusked ones outbreeding the tuskless ones.
Comment icon #7 Posted by silentsinger on 17 May, 2017, 8:10
If its purpose is to help catch fish, then why do only the male Narwhals have it? Would think the females would also have it, if its a
Comment icon #8 Posted by seanjo on 17 May, 2017, 8:21
Like all male only developments on a body, it's main use will be to attract a mate (IMO), the fish stun is an added bonus.
Comment icon #9 Posted by qxcontinuum on 20 May, 2017, 4:17
they are truly gorgeous !


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