Mystery Answered by Drones: Narwhal Tusks a Fishing Tool

Narwhals use their tusks to stun Atlantic cod when fishing, as can be seen in this drone video.

Drone footage has revealed one of the ways narwhals use their tusks. The footage showed them being used as a weapon to slap and stun Arctic cod while hunting. …

The remoteness of where narwhals live, and the fact that they do not leap out of the water like whales and porpoises, has also made documenting their behavior and how they use their tusks a challenge. Neighboring Lancaster Sound is the home of more than three-fourths of the entire world’s narwhal population.

The single spiraling tusk that protrudes through the upper lips of narwhals is the left canine tooth of the marine animals. The Daily Mail reported that the tusks “form a left-handed helix.” According to the newspaper, the tusks are also “hollow.” Because of this, they are relatively light, weighing just “around 10 kg (22 lb).”

The tusk can grow to be eight to almost nine feet long. The right canine tooth of narwhals remains in the animals’ heads.

San Francisco Chronicle reported that female narwhals also grow a single tusk, but theirs are smaller. Another use the tusks of male narwhals might have is in the ritual involving mating, possibly to fight off and intimidate rival males and for display purposes, to impress female narwhals.

Since the tusks of narwhals are covered with pores and nerve endings, it is likely that they use their tusks to help them sense the world around them. The tusks could also be used for purposes ranging from ice picks to echolocation tools.

The tusks of narwhals are “the largest canines” of any animal. Some male narwhals, approximately 1 in 500 of them, have two tusks growing through their upper lips. Generally, the right one is not as long nor as straight.


… Footage captured by two drones in Tremblay Sound, Nunavat, in north-east Canada found the tusks are used to stun Arctic cod by ramming into them.
This behaviour briefly immobilises the fish, making them easy prey. The video was released by WWF Canada.

Brandon Laforest, a senior specialist of Arctic species and ecosystems, told National Geographic part of the mystery of narwhals is that they are notoriously shy creatures.

He said: “They don’t jump like other whales. They are also notoriously skittish.”

The tusk is a canine tooth which can grow to nine feet long from the head of adult males. It contains thousands of nerve endings which allows the narwhal to sense even the slightest movement around them.


Well, that’s it, now we know it all. The Narwhal horn purpose was the last mystery of biology. 

Just kidding. There are plenty more, like why does only the right ovary in female basking sharks appear to function?

How do cells determine what size to grow to before dividing?

What is the precise role of consciousness in decision making… if any?

What are your current favorite biological mysteries?

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