Peter is an independent international zoo consultant, critic and writer with over 50 years of work within zoos.
The Narwhal Monodon monoceros is unique amongst whales by having a specially adapted canine tooth protruding from its head. April the 22nd is Narwhal Appreciation Day.
The Narwhal population is estimated to be in the region of 170,000 animals which live in the Arctic seas bordering the North Atlantic. Today, like all Arctic animals it is under threat from climate change and also to inbreeding and its low genetic diversity.
Normally only the male Narwhal will grow a tusk. It is really the only tooth it will possess. It is a sort of inside out tooth, covered in nerve endings and softer on the outside and hard towards the centre.
Back in the Middle Ages Narwhal tusks were passed of as having come from the Unicorn. The Unicorn never existed, there is no fossil record, though representations appear in many cultures. They are very popular in heraldry.
Another popular contender for the Unicorn title is the Arabian Oryx Oryx leucoryx. I have personally seen at least three Oryx which have lost one horn due to fighting.
In 2017 Narwhal were first observed using their tusks for feeding by flipping and stunning fish.
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