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Tuesday, 04 July 2017 17:06

Film footage unlocks a use for the Narwhal's mysterious tusk

Footage captured by aerial drones as part of a narwhal research camp in Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, Canada is giving biologists new insights into the behaviour of one of the world's most mysterious whales, the long tusked Narwhal. In the footage, a narwhal can be seen using quick taps of its tusk to stun Arctic cod, rendering them immobile and thus easier to capture and eat.

narwhal2Narwhals have a long tusk, which is actually a canine tooth that spirals counterclockwise up to nine feet forward from the head of adult males, and a small percentage of females.

The film footage is significant, both for partially unravelling the mystery of the narwhal tusk and because it shows that narwhals feed on their summering grounds. This helps researchers determine which areas are key narwhal habitat, and need to be considered for protection as the range of the narwhal faces increasing pressure from industrial development.

In the footage, a narwhal can be seen using quick taps of its tusk to stun Arctic cod, rendering them immobile and thus easier to capture and eat.

The behaviour was captured by two drones belonging to documentary filmmaker Adam Ravetch and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, which was leading the narwhal research camp.

David Miller, President and CEO for WWF-Canada says: “This footage, while also stunning to watch, will play a significant role in the future of narwhal conservation. As the Arctic warms and development pressure increases, it will be important to understand how narwhal are using their habitat during their annual migration. With this information in hand, we can work to minimise the effects of human activities on narwhal. More research needs to be conducted to determine how they behave across their range, including the identification of calving and rearing areas. WWF-Canada is looking forward to partnering with Fisheries and Oceans Canada again this year on narwhal research in order to further our understanding of these mysterious animals.”