Marine mammal in the Monodontidae family (the second living species is beluga whale) inhabits the Atlantic sector of the Arctic from the Canadian Arctic, Greenland to the eastern Russian Arctic. The Inuit name of the narwhal might be translated as “the one that points to the sky”, describing the animal’s behavior that points the tusk straight upward when emerging out of the water.
The tusk, which is upper left canine tooth, is hollow during early growth and calcifies with age. Mainly male narwhals have tusks (some might have two ones – about one individual per 500), which weight on average 10 kg. Females may present one or rarely two tusks as well. The tusk is thought to have significant sensory capabilities , which was observed e.g. during the experiment by the Narwhal Discoveries with pouring salty water onto the narwhal’s tusk.
Narwhals’ diet consists of fishes (e.g. Greenland halibut, Arctic Cod), squids, and shrimps. They feed mostly in deep water, possibly close to the bottom, and are able to dive up to nearly 1,500 m and stay under water for 25 minutes. The main natural predators of narwhals are killer whales and polar bears
For many centuries, narwhals have been hunted by the indigenous people living in the Arctic. Inuits hunt them for food (human and dog) and tusk ivory.
In August 2016 WWF Canada provided monitoring program using satellite tags to track narwhals’ routes in the region of North Baffin Island. The aim was to follow the animals on their feeding and reproductive areas (see the map.)