Thursday, 18 May 2017

(Video) Scientists crack mystery of how Narwhals use their tusks

May 15, 2017

by John Hopton 

Narwhals are superb creatures - they have a great name and a striking appearance, largely due to the long and imposing tusks protruding from their heads.

But as remarkable as these whales' tusks look, it has until recently been unknown exactly how they are used.

Drone footage shot around the remote Nunavut region of Canada has put an end to the mystery, revealing that the so called "unicorns of the sea" use their tusks to stun prey.

In behavior caught on camera for the first time, narwhals are seen using the tusks as a club to hit and stun Arctic cod. Once stunned, the fish are easier to catch and eat.

Adam Ravetch of the World Wildlife Fund Canada, and researchers from Fisheries and Oceans Canada, were working in the far Northeastern region when they got the footage.
The remoteness of locations in which narwhals are found goes a long way to explaining why the behavior has not been noted before.

Three quarters of the world's population can be found in the Lancaster Sound, close (in relative terms) to where to footage was taken.

The tusks are likely multipurpose
Marianne Marcoux, a research scientist for Fisheries and Oceans Canada, said that: "Drones are very exciting, we can see things we couldn't see before."

The bigger planes previously used for such ventures often came up with incomplete footage or scared the narwhals.

"They don't jump like other whales. They are also notoriously skittish. This is an entirely new observation of how the tusk is used," said Brandon Laforest, a senior specialist of Arctic species and ecosystems with WWF-Canada.

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