The Science of the Narwhal Tusk

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The function of the single, spiraling tusk of the narwhal, a marine mammal that lives in the Arctic, has captured the imagination of mariners and marine biologists alike. Is it an ice pick? A mate attractor?

A paper published in The Anatomical Record indicates that it acts like a long, pointy antenna, picking up signals from the animal’s environment.

The tusk is actually an overgrown, twisted front tooth. When the researchers dipped the tusks of captured narwhals into waters of varying salinity, the whales’ heart rates changed: higher salinities resulted in a faster beat. “This is the first time that someone has discovered sensory function [for the tusk] and has the science to show it”.

Via TheScientist.

This entry was posted in Science by Heretic. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heretic

I design video games for a living, write fiction, political theory and poetry for personal amusement, and train regularly in Western European 16th century swordwork. On frequent occasion I have been known to hunt for and explore abandoned graveyards, train tunnels and other interesting places wherever I may find them, but there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that I am preparing to set off a zombie apocalypse. Nothing that will stand up in court, at least. I use paranthesis with distressing frequency, have a deep passion for history, anthropology and sociological theory, and really, really, really hate mayonnaise. But I wash my hands after the writing. Promise.

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