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Marine Mammal: The Nawhal Monoceros Essay

1295 words - 5 pages

The Narwhal, Monodon monoceros, is a social, specialized deep-water marine mammal characterized by a unique tooth growth protruding from the upper jaw. Narwhals lives along the coasts and rivers throughout the Arctic,characterized by icy ocean temperatures. Narwhals are usually found in groups of 15 to 20, but herds of several thousand have been seen in the Arctic waters since 1871. Regularly found eastwards from the Canadian Arctic to central Russia they have also been distributed throughout the Eurasian Arctic and in an especially high abundance around the oceans west of Cape Farewell on the east coast of Greenland in the summers and during the winter primarily in the Baffian Bay, and in the Canadian archipelago in the springtime (Reeves, Tracey). The Narwhal has two teeth, located in the upper jaw, however only the left tooth usually develops leaving the underdeveloped right tooth in males and typically both teeth in females vestigial (Das). The protruding tusk grows to about 3 meters forward in a counterclockwise spiral pattern (Drury). The distal end of the tusk appears polished, with the remainder commonly covered by a growth of algae. There is an outer layer of cement, an inner layer of dentine, and a pulp cavity that is rich in blood (Reeves, Tracey). The Narwhal’s head and body ranges from 3-6 meters, with the pectoral fin being around 30-40 cm, and the tail flukes expanding over one meter (Reeves, Tracey). The males are typically larger in size than the females averaging about 3,500 pounds in males and 1,000 in females (Drury). Their bodies begin as an uneven grayish hue and as they mature darken to a mottled bluish black color, darker above than below (Reeves, Tracey). Narwhals posses relatively small heads, a blunt snout, with a short rounded flipper and lack a dorsal fin.
Narwhals belong in the phylum Chordata and are in the class of Mammalia. They are closely related to the Beluga whale. Together they compose the family Monodontidae of suborder Odontoceti, the toothed whales (Drury). Despite being inherently different they share qualities such as body color, body size and the lack of a dorsal fin. As compared to the Narwhal who only posses two teeth Belugas have 8 to 10 teeth, Narwhals also posses more asymmetrical skulls and a convex jaw region (Reeves, Tracey).
The male (and sometimes female) Monodon monoceros have a unique adaptation, it’s unique elongated tooth. There are a variety of theories have been proposed for the categorical function of this tooth (Das). The tusk may be utilized as a hunting tool as it may be advantageous in stirring up food from bottom sediments or spearing prey. Narwhals have also been seen using their tusks to break up the arctic ice. Monodon monoceros may use it like other horned animals such as a male Moose, for male-male competition. Recent observations propose that the males utilize their tusks in aggression against one another as they compete for mates or in order to determine social rank...

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