NARWHAL: ONE- HORNY WHALE

The Narwhal is subject to regulated subsistence hunting by Inuit people in Northern Canada and Greenland. Narwhals were once hunted by Vikings, who prized both the meat and horns; narwhals were thought to be related to unicorns, and to have magical powers-- their horns were thus worth more their weight in gold.

Narwhals were once hunted by Vikings, who prized both the meat and horns; in the medieval period, people thought narwhals to be related to unicorns, and to have magical powers-- Narwhal horns were thus worth more than their weight in gold. The Narwhal population is stable today.

 The exquisite narwhal (Monodon monoceros), is a medium-sized arctic whale; it’s common name is Old Norse for “Corpse whale,” perhaps named for it’s habit of swimming belly-up for short durations.  Charming.

This morbidly named whale’s most notable feature is it’s “horn,” actually a very long tooth seen only on males. In point of fcat narwhals only have two teeth, but to make up for this dearth of dentibus,  the left tooth grows in a spiral out of the mouth, reaching lengths as impressive as 7-10 feet. The function of this horn (and why it is only the left tooth) is the source  of much speculation; the dominant theory is an old one, first offered by Chuck Darwin himself, who hypothesizes that the horn is a secondary sex characteristic, like a peacock’s feather’s or a human male’s automobile, and is likewise used in mating and male-dominance rituals.

One can only assume that narwhals hear a lot of “are you just happy to see me” jokes. 

Cf. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/mammals/narwhal.html
      http://acsonline.org/factpack/Narwhal.htm

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