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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

15 Fin-tastic Facts About The Narwhal For Kids

Read these narwhal facts to know more about narwhal unicorn of the sea.

Narwhal, arctic marine animal, is a medium-sized toothed whale with a large tusk that protrudes from its canine tooth. The scientific name of narwhals is Monodon monoceros, and they are commonly known as the unicorn of the sea. They are medium-sized and have a tusk projecting from a canine tooth. Most male narwhals have a single tusk protruding from their tusk, but some males might have two tusks. It belongs to the family monodontidae along with the Beluga whale. It is mostly found in the Arctic waters in Russia, Canada, and Greenland. Narwhal migration takes place within the Arctic waters wherein this whale species makes a return journey of around 3000 miles. They can spend up to five months under the sea ice during winters. Their conservation status is listed as Near Threatened and rare sightings of the narwhal can be seen in the Arctic waters. The narwhal is hunted by polar bears and killer whales. They can weigh up to 4200 lb and can be 17 feet in length. The narwhal conservation status is near threatened due to various human activities that have made its survival difficult.

Narwhal adaptation ability allows it to survive in the arctic marine environment. The thick layer of blubber offers protection to their body from the cold. Their streamline body and tail offers them propulsion to move around easily. While generally narwhal skeleton supports one large tusk, analysis of narwhal skull in various specimen have shown rare twin tusks . There are many more such interesting facts about narwhal which you will be fascinated to read. For more information on aquatic animals, you may check out bowhead whale facts and whale sharks facts.

Narwhal Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a narwhal?

The narwhal whale is a toothed whale, and it is also known as the unicorn of the sea. They reside among the ice flows in the Arctic waters. They use their tusks to survive in the water. Their tusk acts as a sensory organ which notifies them about the changes in their surrounding. Narwhals are hunted by polar bears, killer whales, and sometimes Greenland whales.

What class of animal does a narwhal belong to?

The narwhal is a mammal that lives in the Arctic waters. Narwhals are related to bottlenose dolphins and beluga whales. Narwhals travel with their groups and prey on fishes like shrimp, cod, and Greenland halibut. The narwhals are warm-blooded living and breathing mammals that give birth to a young narwhal and belong to the sub-order Cetaceans.

How many narwhals are there in the world?

There are more than 80,000 narwhals living in the Arctic waters. These unicorns of the sea are not endangered but are listed as near threatened by the IUCN Red List. Though their population is decreasing due to many reasons like habitat loss, change in climate, oil spills, and being hunted by predators and humans.

Where does a narwhal live?

Narwhal lives in the Arctic waters in Canada, Russia, Greenland, and Norway. They are only found in Arctic and Antarctic waters. They can often be found on the surface of the water, residing in loose sea ice during summer. They use echolocation wherein they can feel sound waves to locate an object or an approaching predator.

What is a narwhal's habitat?

Narwhal can survive in the sea ice of Canada, Greenland, and Russia. They can be seen socializing and catching their prey on the surface of loose ice during summers. A large number of narwhals can be seen  to be living under the ice in the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait Area lying between Canada and Western Greenland.

Who do narwhals live with?

Narwhals live with their own kind in packs, just like other whales. They travel together and hunt for food together. These are social mammals, and sometimes a large pod of more than 100 narwhals can be seen traveling together. A group of narwhals is called a tusking or pod. They sleep with their own group and do not wander off, leaving behind their own species.

How long does a narwhal live?

Narwhals have a long lifespan and can live up to 50 years. They are mostly killed due to suffocation as during winter the ice which is formed on the surface of the ocean is very thick that makes the narwhal to be trapped under the water and it does due to lack of oxygen. Another reason for its death is habitat loss and being hunted by polar bears or killer whales. The juvenile calves of the narwhal are at a higher risk of being killed by predators.

How do they reproduce?

Narwhals mate only once in three years and mate underwater belly to belly and travel to coastal inlets and bays for reproduction. The mating season usually occurs in spring in April, and female narwhals give birth to only one calf after a gestation period of 14 months, but in rare cases, two juveniles are born. Baby narwhals do not have an elongated tusk at birth, but it protrudes as time passes.  

What is their conservation status?

The conservation status of narwhals is near threatened with extinction. Chemical pollution due to industrialization and oil spills from huge vessels and ships can ruin the health of the species leading to their death. Their population also decreases due to the rapid and continuous climate change in the Arctic causing loss of sea ice and eventually damaging their habitat. The population of narwhal has decreased to 80,000. In order to move these species to least concern category, widespread conservation efforts are being undertaken.  

Narwhal Fun Facts

What do narwhals look like?

Narwhals are called the unicorn of the sea because of the long narwhal tusk which can grow up to 10 feet but is primarily an extended narwhal tooth. They live in pods and mate only once in three years. The color of the Narwhals depends on their age. Old narwhals are white or pale white in color. Adult narwhals are mottled gray in color, while juvenile narwhals are bluish-black in color, and the calves are bluish-gray in color. All the teeth are present inside the narwhal mouth albeit one which is their long tusk.

A narwhal horn is the most distinguishing physical feature of this aquatic animal.

How cute are they?

Narwhals are not cute as they belong to the family of white whales along with the Beluga whale. They mostly remain underwater and even mate beneath the surface of the water. They are rarely spotted, but many recordings of national geographic show their natural temperament and behavior.

How do they communicate?

Toothed whales, along with narwhals, use echolocation for communication. They transmit pulsating sounds underneath the water, which deflect after colliding with an object. They also communicate using sound for hunting for feed. They vocalize mainly through whistles, knocks, and clicks.

How big is a narwhal?

The weight of an adult Narwhal ranges between 3500-4200 lb. The narwhal is 3-4 times smaller than a killer whale. They are of the same size of a Beluga whale and their height range is 15-17 ft.

How fast can a narwhal swim?

Narwhals are not fast swimmers, and they swim at a distance of four miles per hour. They are excellent divers and dive up to 800 m deep in the ocean or sometimes even more. They can migrate for about 100-120 miles per day in search of food.  The longest dive of a Narwhal has been recorded to be 1500m as they can hold their breath for a long time.

How much does a narwhal weigh?

The weight of an adult narwhal is similar to that of a Beluga whale that is between 3500-4200 lb. If the male has an outgrown tusk, it would have extra mass compared to the female narwhals, but the male narwhals are slightly heavier than the females.  

What are their male and female names of the species?

There are no different names for the male and female narwhals. They are commonly called the Narwhal species or unicorns of the sea or toothed whales.

What would you call a baby narwhal?

A baby narwhal is called a calf. Female narwhals after mating in the sea underwater, give birth to a single calf after a gestation period of 14 months. In very few cases, twins are born. Baby narwhals do not have a tusk when they are born. The tusk develops from their head as and when they age.

What do they eat?

Narwhals are carnivorous mammals, and they feed on fishes like Arctic cods, shrimps, polar cod, shrimps, squids, and Greenland Halibut. They may also eat other kinds of fish which they eat on the surface of the water in between the ice floes and during the summer where the ice has been melted.

Are they dangerous?

Narwhals have an elongated horn growing out of their head which can pose a danger to humans as well as other marine mammals. Drone footage of narwhals shows that they can use their tusk for hunting purposes. Though they're not easily provoked by humans, they are naturally aggressive in nature.

Would they make a good pet?

It is illegal to own a narwhal as a pet as it is listed as a near-threatened species. They cannot be kept in captivity and will eventually die. They need ocean water to thrive. They were hunted for their tusks, but now the tusk trade has been banned and prohibited.

Did you know...

Male narwhals use their tusks to compete with other males for mating with a female narwhal. Female mates with the male narwhal who is most dominant amongst the males. The narwhal can hold its breath under the water for 25 minutes. Narwhals can adapt to living conditions where there is extreme pressure and no oxygen which is the reason why they can dive so deep. They have a flexible rib cage that can be compressed when there is intense pressure in the bottom of the ocean.

Do narwhals have eyes?

Narwhals have small eyes, but they communicate with their pod with clicks and sometimes whistles. They use echolocation to be wary of predators or other approaching objects.

What does a narwhal use its tusk for?

A narwhal's tusk can be used to detect underwater changes in motion, temperature, water pressure, and particle gradients. They use their tusks for feeding on fish, digging through ice and sea beds, and scaring or wounding male narwhals off during the mating season. The tusk of the narwhal is flexible and moves in all directions for about a foot long.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other mammals including dolphin facts, or Amazon river dolphin facts.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Narwhal coloring pages.

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