Narwhal

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The narwhal, Monodon monoceros is a medium-sized toothed whale that lives year-round in the Arctic. One of two living species of whale in the Monodontidae family, along with the Beluga whale, the narwhal males are distinguished by a characteristic long, straight, helical tusk extending from their upper left jaw. Found primarily in Canadian Arctic and Greenlandic waters rarely south of 65°N latitude, the narwhal is a uniquely specialized Arctic predator. In the winter, it feeds on benthic prey, mostly flatfish, at depths of up to 1500 m under dense pack ice.[3] Narwhal have been harvested for over a thousand years by Inuit people in Northern Canada and Greenland for meat and ivory and a regulated subsistence hunt continues to this day. While populations appear stable, the narwhal has been deemed particularly vulnerable to climate change due to a narrow geographical range and specialized diet.[4]

Contents

Taxonomy and etymology

The narwhal was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his Systema Naturae.[5] This is based on the Old Norse word nár, meaning "corpse", in reference to the animal's greyish, mottled pigmentation, like that of a drowned sailor.[6] The scientific name, Monodon monoceros, is derived from Greek: "one-tooth one-horn"[6] or "one-toothed unicorn"[citation needed].

Description

Male narwhals weigh up to 1,600 kilograms (3,500 lb), and the females weigh around 1,000 kilograms (2,200 lb). The pigmentation of the narwhal is a mottled black and white pattern. They are darkest when born and become whiter in color with age.[6][7]

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