The narwhal is famous for the long ivory tusk which spirals counter-clockwise several feet forward from its upper lip. The tusk is actually the whale's upper left canine tooth. Male narwhals commonly have a single tusk, but they sometimes have two tusks, or none at all. Around 15% of females have a tusk.
Video reveals clue to the mystery of the narwhal tusk
Footage captured by aerial drones as part of a narwhal research camp in Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, is giving biologists new insights into the behaviour of one of the world’s most mysterious whales.Read more
- scientific name
- adult weight
males up to 1900 kg; females up to 1550 kg
- adult length
males up to 5.4 m; females up to 4.9 m, plus tusk up to 3 m
> 170,000 worldwide
Least Concern (IUCN)
What is a narwhal's tusk for?
For centuries now, people have puzzled over the narwhal's unicorn-like tusk, and just what purpose it serves.
The work of Dr. Martin Nweeia and science and Inuit colleagues involved with the Narwhal Tusk Research project has unearthed evidence that the tusk has sensory capabilities.
Using drone photography, filmmaker Adam Ravetch captured a surprising behaviour for the first time. In this amazing video, a male narwhal appears to use his tusk to hit and stun fish.
Threats to narwhals
How we work
Whales depend on sound to survive. WWF is working to limit sound pollution in Arctic waters by making parts of the ocean important for whales off limits to particularly loud industrial activities.
Increasing demand for Greenlandic resources means ship traffic is likely to grow significantly over the next few decades. WWF advises on the risks and engages communities and governments in discussions about best practices for shipping and marine spatial planning.
WWF has created maps and posters for Canadian ships in the Arctic to help mariners identify and avoid marine mammals.
WWF supports a multi-partner research project with local Inuit communities, fitting satellite radio-transmitters to narwhals to investigate seasonal movements, key staging and wintering habitats, dive depths and diets.
This predominantly Arctic species is associated with ice floes. Its movement patterns are therefore influenced by the melting and freezing of the ice. The bowhead has suffered from severe over-exploitation that has seen its range shrink considerably since the 17th century.
Arctic caribou and wild reindeer are truly circumpolar animals, linking regions and people around the globe.