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The Mysterious, Violent Purpose Behind the Narwhal's 'Unicorn' Tusk [VIdeo]

May 16, 2017 05:57 AM EDT
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Narwhal

(Photo : WWF-Canada/YouTube)

The elusive narwhals -- often called the unicorn of the sea -- have always been mysterious creatures with their bizarre tusks that can grow up to nine feet long. There are several advantages to their "horns," but recently, scientists were able to capture them actually use it in a hunt.

According to an official report from World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, the recently revealed footage (see below) was able to capture how the narwhals use their tusks to hit and stun their prey before eating them. Two drones were used for the video in Trembley Sound, Nunavet in Canada.

This is a rare peak into the narwhal life as the creatures are notoriously shy, skittish and not prone to jumping like other whales, according to a report from National Geographic. The video offers an entirely new perspective on the value of the creature's tusk.

The tusk of the narwhal is actually a tooth. Scientists believe that its main function is likely linked to sexual selection and testicle size. There's also research that suggests that narwhal's use their long tusks for navigation, giving the animal the most directional echolocation than any other species in the planet.

The new data from the video offers new insight on the function of the tusk and opens new avenues of research for the "unicorns". As a result, narwhal conservation will hopefully benefit from the knowledge.

"As the Arctic warms and development pressure increases, it will be important to understand how narwhal are using their habitat during their annual migration," WWF-Canada president and CEO David Miller said in a statement. "With this information in hand, we can work to minimize 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."

The research was funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, Polar Continental Shelf Project and WWF Canada, and was done in collaboration with local Inuit, the University of Windsor, the Vancouver Aquarium, and Arctic Bear Productions.

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