In 2009, a wacky animated video was uploaded to YouTube entitled “Narwhals” (viewer discretion advised). This video was accompanied by a song that had been written about the title creature, and it became a huge viral hit that accumulated more than 41 million views. Although much of the content of this song was not based in reality, it did help spread awareness of these medium-sized whales, and they have become a favorite mammal to look for during Arctic and Greenland expeditions.
Reviving the Narwhal Craze
In February 2015, cellular provider Sprint decided to revive the Narwhals video by inserting part of it into one of their advertisements. This particular ad was broadcast several times during “The Walking Dead,” and it has definitely created a new level of buzz around these majestic creatures of the sea. Interestingly, the video has helped to call attention to some of the biggest misconceptions about narwhals, but it has also created an educational opportunity for everyone who loves the idea of exploring the Arctic.
Five Fascinating Real Life Facts about Narwhals
1. Their Tusk Comes from Their Mouth - The animated depiction of narwhals refers to their tusk as a “facial horn,” but the truth is much more complicated. Although scientists still call this protrusion a tusk, it is actually a modified version of a tooth. The tooth/tusk originates from the upper left jaw instead of the head. In most cases, males are the only narwhals that have one of these tusks, but research indicates that approximately 3 percent of females have one as well.
2. You Can Determine a Narwhal’s Age by its Color – If you spot a narwhal during an Arctic expedition, you will be able to make a relatively educated guess about its age by simply looking at the color of its skin. For example, newborn narwhals are characterized by a blue-gray color, but this switches to blue-black as they advance into their juvenile state. An adult narwhal will have spotted gray skin, and the elderly creatures are easy to spot because they become almost completely white. These color variations happen within a life span of approximately 40 years.
3. Feeding Habits – Some people think that the narwhal uses its tusk as a way to fight or snare food, but neither of these possibilities appear to be factual. However, we do know that the narwhal is a suction feeder, and this means that it swallows its food whole like many other Arctic region animals such as emperor penguins. Narwhals live on a diet that primarily consists of eight food sources: squid, rockfish, Greenland halibut, shrimp, crab, polar cod, flounder and Arctic cod.
4. Narwhals can be Very Loud – Whales love to sing, and it appears that narwhals are no exception. However, the calls that they make are easy to hear if they are near the surface, and it sounds like a mixture of a whale song, barking and something that seems almost alien. If you are fortunate enough to encounter several narwhals while on an Arctic expedition, you are likely to hear them calling to each other.
5. Narwhals are Closely Related to Beluga Whales – The beluga whale is the closest known relative of the narwhal species, and they have both adapted for optimal survival in the Arctic. Narwhals and belugas do not have dorsal fins, and this makes it possible for them to easily break through thin sections of ice so that they can breathe. In some cases, narwhals and belugas have crossbred, and this has led to the creation of a hybrid species known as the beluga-narwhal.
Narwhals were recently featured as a focal point of this year’s World Wildlife Day, and this makes perfect sense due to their recent upswing in popularity. After all, although narwhals might not really be underwater unicorns, they are a fascinating creature that deserves more attention. In fact, some historians believe that narwhals could be the basis of the unicorn myth, and this would mean that these sea creatures have had a huge impact on writers and artists since the beginning of recorded time. With this intriguing background, it is no wonder that so many people who go on Greenland and Arctic expeditions are hopeful of encountering a narwhal.