One of the most mysterious, captivating and uniquely interesting creatures to still exist in our world is the narwhal.
Its scientific name, Monodon Monoceros, is derived from Greek that translates to ‘one-tooth-one-horn’.
The word narwhal means corpse-whale in Old Norse while the Inuit name for a narwhal is Oialugaq Gernartaq, which means ‘the one that points to the sky’.
Narwhals have been prevalent in Inuit culture with a fascinating story of the narwhal’s origins dating back centuries to an old Inuit legend.
Affectionally dubbed as ‘sea unicorns’ for their giant protruding tusk, these marine mammals live in the freezing Artic waters of Norway, Russia, Greenland and Canada.
Unfortunately, due to factors such as global warming and pollution, narwhals have been given the status of ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Here are some surprising and unknown facts about this sea creature.
- No Narwhals in Human Captivity
Forget trying to get close to them, these charming creatures are incredibly difficult to even spot.
Thus, not a single narwhal has ever been captured and put in a tank.
If placed into captivity, they would perish rather quickly due to falling levels of acidity and carbon dioxide in their blood as oxygen levels rise quickly after capture.
Thankfully, their non-captivity would mean that narwhals in the wild are more likely to be able to reach their life expectancies of up to 100 years.
- Their Skin Has as Much Vitamin C as Oranges
Surprisingly, a narwhal’s flesh contains as much Vitamin C as an orange!
But not just one of them, 28.4 grams worth to use in the same way we humans do, particularly to bind collagen fibrils together.
Not only that, it contains various minerals that have paved the way for their flesh to be highly prized and in high-demand in Inuit communities.
- They Change Colour as They Mature
Narwhals have the natural ability to change colour as they transition into different phases of their lives.
New-borns enter the world blueish-grey and turn to a mottled black and white combination as adults before maturing and turning almost entirely white as a full-grown adult.
- A Narwhal’s Tusk Always Spirals to the Left
There are numerous documented cases of inconsistent narwhal tusks.
Most narwhals have the expected one tusk. However, some narwhals even have two tusks or no tusks at all.
But even on the occasion that a narwhal possesses two tusks, one thing would still remain consistent – the direction in which a single or double tusk on a narwhal never fails to spiral in a counter clockwise direction.
But, did you know that their tusk is actually their only canine tooth?
As they do not possess any teeth for eating, narwhals have no choice but to have their meals such as squid, cod, shrimp and even halibut eaten whole.
According to scientists, a narwhal’s tooth is the only one in nature that defies the principals of ‘mirror-imaged morphology’ that applies to all other documented teeth.
- Their Tusks Were Sold as Unicorn Horns in Medieval Times
Just like in modern times, many people rarely have the opportunity to come into contact with narwhals.
Only Vikings and traders knew about their existence during medieval times as they live in cold and remote areas.
Thus, merchants were easily fooled into purchasing ‘unicorn horns’ that were actually narwhal tusks.