Mysterious Unicorns of the Sea

Narwhals are often referred to as the unicorns of the sea. Much like unicorns, narwhals live a mysterious life, deep in the Arctic ocean.

The narwhal is a pale, porpoise-like creature that is a close relative of the beluga whale. The narwhal can grow up to 20 feet long. Its most distinctive feature is its horn.

The narwhal's horn, also known as its tusk, is very eye-catching. It is one of only two teeth that grow from its upper lip to form a horn. Recently, scientists have found that this horn is used as a sensory tool with nerve endings to whack and stun fish before eating them.

Not only do narwhals look like unicorns, but their lifestyle also mirrors the persona of these majestic creatures. For decades, people have wondered exactly what the day to day life of these sea creatures was like.

Susanna Blackwell of Greenridge Sciences and her team of scientists decided to investigate this mystery. Susanna and her team were able to tag six narwhals: five females and one male. The researchers tagged them with microphones and G.P.S. trackers to document the life of the narwhal.

Each narwhal provided multiple continuous days of audio; in total, they provided more than five hundred hours. The researchers collected three types of sound recordings: clicking, buzzing, and calling. The third sound, calling, is used by narwhals to communicate with each other. It involves a variety of clicks, whistles, and sonic pulses. Clicking and buzzing are used by narwhals to navigate and pinpoint prey. It's similar to the echolocation that bats use to fly and find food in the dark. The narwhals communicate using these sounds at depths ranging from seven hundred to two thousand feet. They swim at these depths because that is where their prey lives.

More is being discovered about narwhals each day. By tracking when and where they make certain sounds, researchers will be able to better understand their behaviors and get a clear picture of the daily lives of these majestic sea creatures.

[Sources: The New Yorker ; WWF ]