Narwhals and Unicorns

23 May

narwhal_unicorn_machoroboraza_flickr

by the Center for Biological Diversity

The so-called unicorn horns once prized by Renaissance collectors and thought to have magical powers likely belonged not to mythical white horses but to the chunky, odd-looking whales we know as narwhals, which are now among the marine animals threatened by climate change in the far North. Narwhals are hunted by Inuit, polar bears and orca, and mostly live in Canada and western Greenland.

Narwhals’ long, single tusk, it turns out, is in fact an 8-foot-long spiral tooth whose evolutionary mysteries have baffled scientists for decades. Now Martin Nweeia of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine has discovered that narwhals’ extraordinary-looking megatooth actually contains 10 million hypersensitive nerve connections, which can suss out changes in water temperature, water pressure and “particle gradients,” helping the animals navigate and hunt. In other words, these “unicorn horns” do have magical properties after all.

illustration at top adapted from original work by machoroboraza / flickr creative commons

One Response to “Narwhals and Unicorns”

  1. ohnwentsya May 25, 2013 at 1:05 am #

    Reblogged this on Spirit In Action and commented:
    These guys are another reason why I can’t take the nonsense “controversy” over global warming peacefully or calmly-so much is in the line of fire that I simply cannot understand why people are not in the streets every day demanding wall street, big oil and all their corrupt compatriots be arrested immediately!

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