Sunday, October 27, 2013

I'm boring, but critters aren't.

I'm totally over me. Plus, I've been functioning at like 20% (mystery illness 2.0), so I've gone from being regular bored of myself to pulling-out-my-own-fingernails bored of myself, which does not make for inspiring blog posts.

However, in my sloth-like state, I have taken to watching nature videos on youtube, and Attenborough's Ark got me all jacked up on weirdo animals. So I am going to create my own 'ark' of 10 critters that top my super-awesome list, and over the next few weeks, will tell you about them. Here goes...

Marni's Ark Animal 1: the Narwhal

Super awesome feature of the narwhal: males have 1.5-3 m (that's 5-10 ft, for my Yank friends) canine tooth that grows straight through their upper left lip. They are basically a mammalian-fish-unicorn. For real.

Narwhal male, showing the glorious tooth-o-horn.

Narwhal distribution (in blue).
The narwhal (Monodon monoceros) is one of the toothed whales, is most closely related to beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas), and is found in areas of the Canadian arctic (represent!) and waters off Greenland.

Narwhal are social animals and travel in groups ranging from small pods (5-10 individuals) to large aggregations (of a few hundred), depending on the seasonal food supply. They are fairly deep divers (up to 1500 m) and feed on benthic prey such as flat fish, squid, and cuttlefish.

Here is a clip narrated by Sir Attenborough himself, showing a group of narwhal cruising along.

Nobody really knows why male narwhals grow the immense tooth. About 1 in 500 males has two of the elongate canines, and a few females also have the tooth. The tooth is packed full of sensitive nerve endings, which suggests that it plays a sensory role. But, the males also engage in "tusking" behavior, where they joust with their tooth. This implies that the tooth is a secondary sexual characteristic, i.e. it serves to impress the ladies, but needs to be investigated further. I know I'm impressed.

Here is clip from National Geographic, with some great tusk footage.

Cool, huh?

1 comment:

  1. Jesse (uvic former coworker)October 27, 2013 at 7:46 PM

    love your blog Marni, you and your career are and inspiration to nature lovers everywhere. keep up the good work and best of wishes going forward ...