The Mysterious Unicorns of the Sea

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The Mysterious Unicorns of the Sea


Unicorns are mythical creatures known for the single large, pointed, spiraling horn on its forehead. Some of you might believe they are real, while some of you might be convinced that they are only from fictional stories. However, there are real ‘unicorns’ living on our seas – the narwhals.


Photo Credit: Shutterstock


Narwhals, which live in their remote Arctic habitat, are medium-size marine mammals that are famous for their tusk that looks like a unicorn’s horn. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), they live in the Arctic Ocean and around the coastlines of Russia, Norway, Greenland, and Canada. Fortunately, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) considers them a species of least concern. As of now, there are about 123,000 narwhals divided into 12 subpopulations within the Arctic. This means that their population is not under significant threat.


Photo Credit: Live Science


Live Science, a science news website that features groundbreaking developments in science, space, technology, health, the environment, our culture, and history, reported that only male narwhals have these so-called unicorn horns. Their tusk grows up to 9 feet long (3 m) out of the male's mouth, which looks like a long, straight tooth. However, female narwhals also grow a tusk, but only 15 percent of them. Scientists theorize that the purpose of these tusks is for survival. They use it to spear fish for dinner or dig for meals in the seafloor. However, experts don’t see this as an advantage for survival since females tend to live longer than males. Instead, tusks are a primarily male sex characteristic that serves as a formidable weapon for competing with other males for mates. 


Photo Credit: Live Science


Unfortunately, just like other Arctic wildlife, narwhals are likely to struggle in the face of climate change. The Arctic sea ice is disappearing at an alarming rate due to rising temperatures. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), narwhals are important members of Arctic life. They are also an essential cultural and nutritional resource for the Inuit who have harvested the tusked whales for hundreds of years. 




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