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ALL ABOUT WHALES!
What is a Whale? Whale Information Sheets Anatomy and Behavior Extreme Whales Whale Myths Whale Evolution Whale Classification Whale Glossary Whale Activities Whale Index

NARWHAL
Monodon monoceros
Narwhal Printout
Narwhal Quiz
Narwhal Connect-the-Dots

Narwhal The Narwhal (meaning "corpse whale" in Old Norse) is a rarely seen Arctic whale. This social whale is known for the very long tooth that males have. Very little is known about this whale.

THE TOOTH
All narwhals have two teeth in their upper jaw. After the first year of a male narwhal's life, its left tooth grows outward, spirally. This long, single tooth projects from its upper jaw and can grow to be 7-10 feet (2-3 m) long. Tusks are usually twisted in a counterclockwise direction and have a hollow interior. The tusk's function is uncertain, perhaps used as a formidable jousting weapon in courtship and dominance rivalry, in obtaining food, and/or for channeling and amplifying sonar pulses (which they emit). The tusk is not used in hunting. Tusking is a behavior in which male narwhals rub their tusks together - perhaps determining dominance in the group.

Long ago, narwhal sightings reinforced (or started) the unicorn legends. In medieval times, narwhal tusks that washed ashore were thought to be from the mythical unicorn.

SIZE
Narwhals can grow to be about 16 feet (4.9 m) long (not counting the tooth), and weigh about 1.8 tons (1.6 tonnes). Females are slightly smaller, averaging about 13 feet (4 m) long, and weighing 1 ton (0.9 tonnes). At birth, narwhals are about 5 feet (1.5 m) long and 175 pounds (80 kg).

SKIN AND SHAPE
Narwhal means "corpse whale" in Old Norse; this is perhaps a description of their skin, which is bluish-gray with white blotches (young narwhals are brown). Narwhals have a cylindrical body (with no dorsal fin) and a round head with a small mouth on their blunt snout. This compact body shape plus a thick layer of blubber retains heat in the icy Arctic waters in which they live.

HABITAT and MIGRATION
Narwhals live in the icy waters of the Arctic seas. Narwhals winter in deep-water beneath ice pack in groups of 5-10 animals; in summer they migrate to shallow, ice-free summer grounds where they congregate in larger groups. They rarely stray far from ice. In summer they infrequently enter estuaries, deep fjords, and bays.


DIVING
Narwhals can dive down to 1500 m deep; they are among the deepest-diving mammals. The duration of a narwhal dive is from 7-25 minutes.

VOCALIZATION
Narwhals are a very vocal species of whale, making clicks, squeals, and whistles to communicate and/or navigate.

LIFE SPAN
Narwhals maximum life span is about 50 years.

DIET
Narwhals eat fish , squid , shrimp, and other marine animals. They feed near the sea floor, deep under the pack ice of the Arctic.

SOCIAL GROUPS
Pods (social groups of whales) of 4-20 narwhals have been observed; some groups consist of just one sex and others contain both sexes. Many pods may travel together, forming very large groups.

POPULATION COUNT
It is estimated that there are roughly 10,000 to 45,000 narwhals. Narwhals are preyed upon by man (Inuit hunters legally hunt narwhals), polar bears, orcas, sharks, and walruses.

REPRODUCTION
The Narwhal's gestation period is 10-16 months. Calves are brown and have no spots (unlike adults who are blue-gray with whitish spots). Calves are nursed for about 4 months after birth.

CLASSIFICATION
Narwhals (Monodon monoceros) are toothed whales (Suborder Odontoceti). They are one of 76 cetacean species, and are marine mammals.

Kingdom Animalia (animals)
Phylum Chordata (vertebrates)
Class Mammalia (mammals)
Order Cetacea (whales and dolphins)
Suborder Odontoceti (toothed whales)
Superfamily Delphinoidea (oceanic dolphins and some whales)
Family Monodontidae (Narwhals and Beluga whales)
Genus Monodon
Species monoceros

NARWHAL ACTIVITIES
Narwhal Connect-the-Dots

Narwhal Quiz - or go to the answers

A first grade addition activity. Solve the 1-digit addition problems, then do letter substitutions to find the name of a whale.

A first grade subtraction activity. Solve the 1-digit subtraction problems, then do letter substitutions to answer a whale question.

A Narwhal word hunt activity - For second and third graders.




Information Sheets About Whales
(and other cetaceans)

Just click on a cetacean's name to go to that information sheet.

BELUGA WHALE

BLUE WHALE

BOTTLENOSE DOLPHIN

BOWHEAD WHALE

GRAY WHALE

HUMPBACK WHALE

KILLER WHALE

MINKE WHALE

NARWHAL

ORCA

RIGHT WHALES

SPERM WHALE




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