Narwhal
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


Description

Flukes:

- 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"

Flippers:

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

Head:

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

Tusks:

- 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"

Newborn:

- 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


Behavior

- 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


Distribution

- 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

Return To Gulf of Mexico Species
Return To Cetaceans of the World

e-mail suggestions or questions to
tmmsn@sci.tamucc.edu

This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet