Quantcast
Popular
www.facebook.com

Video Reveals Clue to World's Most Mysterious Whales

Footage captured by aerial drones as part of a narwhal research camp in Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, is giving biologists new insights into the behavior of one of the world's most mysterious whales.


Narwhals 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. 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 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.

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

What we know (and don't know) about narwhal:

• The volume of research is very small compared to other whales, because narwhals live in remote locations that are difficult to access.

• Scientists know even less about the evolution of the narwhal tusk, which is actually a tooth, though it likely serves more than one purpose. Over the years, theories have included that it is an ice pick, a weapon to win a mate and a tool for echolocation.

• Recent research suggests that the tusk has thousands of nerve endings, as well as pores that allow narwhals to sense the environment around them.

• Every summer, the nutrient-rich waters of Canada's Lancaster Sound host more than 80,000 narwhals, three quarters of the world's population.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada, with support from WWF-Canada, the Vancouver Aquarium, and the Pond Inlet Hunters and Trappers Organization, will continue research this year on narwhal behavior and movements in the Eclipse Sound. Additional research through WWF-Canada's Arctic Species Conservation Fund will seek to identify important narwhal calf rearing habitat in the region.

"This footage, while also stunning to watch, will play a significant role in the future of narwhal conservation," David Miller, president and CEO for WWF-Canada, said.

"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 minimize the effects of human activities on narwhal," Miller continued.

"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."

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
In 2018, the Arctic region had the second-lowest overall sea-ice coverage on record. NOAAPMEL / YouTube

The Past 5 Years Were the Arctic's Warmest on Record

The Arctic is still warming at twice the rate of anywhere else on Earth, and the region's air temperatures in the past five years between 2014-2018 have exceeded all previous records since 1900, according to a peer-reviewed report released by the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Tuesday.

The agency's 13th annual Arctic Report Card also concluded that 2018 was second only to 2016 in terms of the region's overall warmth.

Keep reading... Show less
Science
Partial solar eclipse. ndersbknudsen, CC BY 2.0

3 Key Dangers of Solar Geoengineering and Why Some Critics Urge a Global Ban

By Justin Mikulka

A Harvard research team recently announced plans to perform early tests to shoot sunlight-reflecting particles into the high atmosphere to slow or reverse global warming.

These research efforts, which could take shape as soon as the first half of 2019, fall under the banner of a geoengineering technology known as solar radiation management, which is sometimes called "sun dimming."

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
Even an increase of 2°C would cause significant sea level rise. pxhere

Report: Current Climate Policies Will Warm the World by 3.3˚C

This past October, a widely disseminated United Nations report warned that far-reaching and significant climate impacts will already occur at 1.5˚C of warming by 2100.

But in a study released Tuesday, researchers determined that the current climate polices of governments around the world will push Earth towards 3.3˚C of warming. That's more than two times the aspirational 1.5˚C target adopted by nearly 200 nations under the 2015 Paris agreement.

Keep reading... Show less
Food
garett_mosher / iStock / Getty Images

McDonald's to Reduce Antibiotics Use in Beef

In a significant win in the fight to save antibiotics, McDonald's—the largest and most iconic burger chain on the planet—announced Tuesday that it will address the use of antibiotics in its international supply chain for beef by 2021.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights/Opinion
Protesters clashes with riot police on Foch avenue next to the Place de l'Etoile, setting cars ablaze during a Yellow Vest protest on Dec. 1 in Paris. Etienne De Malglaive / Getty Images

The Lesson From a Burning Paris: We Can’t Tax Our Way Out of the Climate Crisis

By Wenonah Hauter

The images from the streets of Paris over the past weeks are stark and poignant: thousands of angry protesters, largely representing the struggling French working class, resorting to mass civil unrest to express fear and frustration over a proposed new gas tax. For the moment, the protests have been successful. French President Emmanuel Macron backed off the new tax proposal, at least for six months. The popular uprising won, seemingly at the expense of the global fight against climate change and the future wellbeing of our planet.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Rainbow Mountains in Vinicuna, Perú. Megan Lough / UI International Programs / CC BY-ND 2.0

7 Reasons Why #Mountains Matter

December 11 is International Mountain Day, an annual occasion designated by the United Nations to celebrate Earth's precious mountains.

Mountains aren't just a sight to behold—they cover 22 percent of the planet's land surface and provide habitat for plants, animals and about 1 billion human beings. The vital landforms also supply critical resources such as fresh water, food and even renewable energy.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Tetra Images / DigitalVision / Getty Images

Don’t Stress About What Kind of Christmas Tree to Buy, but Reuse Artificial Trees and Compost Natural Ones

By Bert Cregg

Environmentally conscious consumers often ask me whether a real Christmas tree or an artificial one is the more sustainable choice. As a horticulture and forestry researcher, I know this question is also a concern for the Christmas tree industry, which is wary of losing market share to artificial trees.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
The Woolsey Fire seen from Topanga, California on Nov. 9. Peter Buschmann / Forest Service, USDA

Hotter Planet Makes Extreme Weather Deadlier, New Study Finds

By Jake Johnson

With people across the globe mobilizing, putting their bodies on the line, and getting arrested en masse as part of a broad effort to force the political establishment to immediately pursue ambitious solutions to the climate crisis, new research published on Monday provided a grim look at what the future will bring if transformative change is not achieved: colossal flooding, bigger fires, stronger hurricanes and much more.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!