Monodon monoceros

Other Names: Narwhale

Habitat: Inshore and occasionally offshore

Status: Locally common

Population: 25,000-45,000

Threats: Hunting/whaling, pollution, and human disturbance

Group Size: 1-25, hundreds or thousands may travel together

Fin Position: No fin

Newborns: 5-5 ft (1.5-1.7 m), 175 lbs. (80 kg)

Adults: 12 -16 ft (3.8-5 m), 0.8-1.6 tons

Diet: Fish, squid or octopus and krill or other crustaceans

Teeth: 0-2 on top row, 0 on bottom row



- concave leading edges become more pronounced with age
- distinct notch in middle
- convex trailing edges become more pronounced with age
- flukes may be lifted above surface before deep dive
- appear "back-to-front"


- short, dark gray flippers
- small flippers
- upcurled tips more pronounced with age


- small, upturned mouth
- slight hint of beak
- bulbous forehead
- proportionately small head
- rounded head


- tip brilliant white and usually smoothly polished
- brittle tusk hollow for most of its length
- double tusk (from above)
- extra right tusk usually shorter than left
- both tusks spiral in counter-clockwise direction (when viewed from root)
- left tusk present in all males
- single tusk
- counter-clockwise spiral (when viewed from root)
- tusk pierces upper "lip"


- gray body color
- protected by 1-in (2.5 cm) layer of blubber at birth
- no tusk

Other characteristics:

- flexible neck, with little evidence of neck crease
- slight hump instead of dorsal fin
- mottled back and sides
- cylindrical body
- pale or white belly
- stocky body


- when feeding, moves erratically and spends little time at surface, usually diving for 7 to 20 minutes; on migration, swims fast and stays at or close to surface; when hunting, mills around or moves very slowly
- all members of a group may surface and dive at the same time
- may rest at surface for up to 10 minutes, with part of back or a flipper above water; in rough seas, tends to rest at depth
- tusk may be raised above surface
- spyhopping, lobtailing, and flipper-slapping fairly common
- rarely breaches, but sometimes lunges at surface when swimming
- weak and usually inconspicuous blow


- circumpolar distribution in extreme northern latitudes in association with pack ice
- occupies once of the most northerly habitats of any cetacean
- discontinuous circumpolar range, mostly above Arctic Circle and right to edge of icecap; seldom found farther south than 70 N
- rare in central an western Canada and in Alaskan and Siberian waters, but particularly large concentrations in the Davis Strait, around Baffin Bay, and in the Greenland Sea
- often found around pack ice
- seeks sanctuary from Killer Whales in small areas of open water
- migrations dictated by advancing and retreating ice
- spends summer in deep, cold fjords and bays
- few observations have been made during winter because of bad weather and poor light, so little is known about distribution

TMMSN Galveston

TMMSN Corpus Christi

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This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet