The Mysterious Narwhal

In cold, dark oceans lives a kind of whale called the narwhal. Kind of unsettling at first because of that single long horn growing out of its head like the mythical unicorn horse thing. It is difficult enough to study creatures who cannot have a discussion and answer questions, but even more so with elusive sea critters.


The narwhal is a whale with a horn on its head, which is really a tusk — a very long tooth — which has special purposes.
Narwhal illustration from Harper's, 1902, via Flickr / Internet Archive
The horn is used to puncture ships below the waterline, causing them to sink —

"No, Cowboy Bob, you're thinking of the Nautilus submarine in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea".

Oh, right. Well, the submarine did have a pointed thing, but never mind.

As I said earlier, it can be difficult to learn about elusive sea creatures. There are many speculations that seem reasonable, and we can hope for further research. The horn is not a horn, but a tusk — a very large tooth. Unlike our teeth, the sensitive part is on the outside, and the narwhal may be able to sense changes in water salinity and temperature. They seem to use it for hunting, and even fencing with other males.

There is no sign of evolution. Some creationists believe this tusk feature developed in comparatively recent years. This may fit the engineered adaptability hypothesis where creatures were created with the ability to adjust to the needs of their environments.
Like the horned white horses of ancient lore, narwhals, called the unicorns of the sea, are mythical—or at least nearly so. In remote areas around the Canadian Arctic and Greenland, these elusive whales dwell in an ice-covered region cloaked in darkness for half the year.

Most people recognize narwhals by their famous long tusk. But when asked to explain the tusk’s purpose, most people don’t have a clue. Even scientists aren’t fully sure. But such a prominent feature—a 9-foot (2.7 m) tooth—doesn’t arise by chance and keep getting passed down as a defining family feature unless there’s a reason. We just don’t know what it is yet.
To read the rest (which has a couple of good pictures) or to download the audio version, click on "Narwhal — Unicorn of the Sea".



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