Meet Tusk, the Narwhal Whale Accepted by Belugas

narwhal whale
Narwhal gets accepted by beluga pod! By A. Thorburn – http://theprintportfoliogallery.com/index.php?main_page=index&cPath=61_65, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28634335

Narwhal whales–Unicorns of the Sea

I am Tusk, and I’m a young male narwhal whale. I am unique among all the whales because I have a very long horn. It resembles a unicorn horn. But I’m real narwhal whale, and they’re not!

My tusk!

It’s one really long tooth, up to about half my body lengths—we can grow up to 17 feet long and our tusk can be over 10 feet long! I only have two teeth, but that one tooth is truly magnificent! It is sensitive with nerve endings—up to 10 million of them. I can use it to hit and stun fish, and then eat the fish before they can swim away.

Narwhal whale tusks have many uses, and humans suppose we use them for attracting mates, as a weapon, to open holes in the ice or to sense temperature and pressure. But shh! I’m not one to give away the narwhal whale’s secrets—I’ll let you clever humans figure out what we really use our tusks for!

I loved my life in the icy Arctic waters with my pod of 20 narwhal whales. Life was good as we ate plenty of cod and halibut and I loved seeing all the wildlife around like belugas, walruses and seals.

I’m lost!

But one day I wandered too far away from my pod. So far away they couldn’t hear my sounds, and I could no longer hear theirs. They were a noisy bunch, so I must have wandered very far away.

I did the only thing I knew to do, which was to swim. Crying out now and then, I only got silence back. I swam for months before I came to the St. Lawrence River. I could tell by the salinity difference that I wasn’t at home anymore. Estuaries are less salty than the ocean because of freshwater diluting the saltwater.

I was hungry, lonely, and sad. I missed my pod and my old Arctic home. Little did I know, but around a bend was a whole pod of male beluga whales.

My saviors, the Belugas!

Belugas are strange, as they don’t have tusks and are all white. I’m mottled gray in comparison. Belugas are known as the canaries of the sea because they chatter so much more than narwhals!

It was fortunate we all met, or else I wouldn’t have known where or how to catch food in this new area. I swam with them for a few days, just to see if they would accept me as their own. When they let me hunt with them, I knew I was at least temporarily accepted.

I had to learn their clicks and whistles, as they didn’t understand mine. We’ve gotten to know each other well this past year, and I feel like I’m one of the gang. I think some belugas are even jealous of my tusk!

This is a fictional story based on real-life events as seen in the National Geographic documentary, “Secrets of the Whales” streaming on Disney+

Also see 10 Cool Facts About Narwhal Whales

Facts from:

World Wildlife Fund Unicorn of the Sea—Narwhal Facts

Animal Fact Guide—Narwhals

Wikipedia entry on Narwhals

How Does Whale Poop Fight Climate Change?

blue whale poop, whale poop
Blue whale poop by Ian Wiese

Did you know that whales are climate change fighting machines? If saving them for their majesty and beauty wasn’t enough, whales actually help fight climate change. This is due to whale poop, of all things.

Blue Whale Poop

Take the largest animals to roam the Earth, present day or past, the blue whales. Blue whales reach lengths of 100 feet and 190 tons. When they poop, they release the by-products of the krill they eat.
Essentially whale poop is fertilizer for the plants of the ocean, the phytoplankton. The phytoplankton, wherever the blue whale migrates to, are stimulated to grow. They, like terrestrial plants, use carbon dioxide and sunlight to grow. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. The less of it in the air, the better it is for planet Earth and its warming climate.

Phytoplankton thanks

The phytoplankton take sunlight and carbon dioxide and turn it into food and oxygen. Take a breath, and sigh it out. Take another breath and exhale. One of those breaths is thanks to phytoplankton growing in the ocean! Thanks phytoplankton!

Whale migration

Whales are constantly swimming and migrating to new places in search of food. Along the way they poop out nutrients and voila, the phytoplankton begin to grow and nourish the bottom of the food chain there. The phytoplankton grow where they wouldn’t have otherwise without whale poop and the critters in those spots benefit.

Nutrients brought up from depths

Whales also dive in search of food-think of a sperm whale fighting a giant squid for a meal-and bring up nutrients from the ocean depths and deposit them at the surface where phytoplankton live and grow.

Whale falls

Although it’s sad to think about, whales die and sink to the sea floor. One whale body can bring 190,000 tons of carbon (equivalent to the emissions of 80,000 cars in a year) from the surface to the sea floor. This is a part of carbon sequestration, which just means capturing carbon somehow and taking it out of the air. In this case it means taking carbon from the surface (the whale) and depositing it on the sea floor. There many animals benefit from eating and scavenging the whale, and the carbon get deposited and stays there.

Whale poop and Fisheries

Last, but not least, whales and their poop can help enhance fisheries. There will be higher rates of food productivity in places where whales feed and give birth. The whale poop stimulates the phytoplankton at the bottom of the food chain, and fish at the higher levels of the food chain benefit and grow and reproduce.

So while being magnificent in their own right, whales and their poop are climate change fighters!

Did you know sea otters also help fight climate change?

Whale poop and climate change: here’s what you need to know by National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

Blue Whale Caught on Camera Having a Poo

10 Cool Facts about Narwhals

Rare narwhal with two tusks!
Rare narwhal with two tusks!

1. Narwhals are often called the “Unicorns of the Sea” because of their tusk, which is actually a long tooth.

2. Most male narwhals have a tusk, while only some females have one. Some narwhals even have two tusks! Their tusks have over 10 million nerves in them and can be up to 9 feet long.

3. The narwhal’s scientific name Monodon monoceras means “one tooth, one horn.” Males have been seen crossing tusks and it is assumed that they are fighting for females or trying to impress them.

4. The narwhals’ tusks can be used for hunting. They use their tusks to slap and stun fish before eating them. Check out video footage of narwhals hunting with their tusks

5. Narwhals live in pods of 10-100 individuals in the Arctic, but have been seen in pods up to 1000.

6. Narwhals mainly hang out at the surface, but can dive down to 5,000 feet deep (1,524 m)

7. Narwhals feed on fish, shrimp and squid. They are suction feeders that swallow their food whole.

8. Predators include killer whales, polar bears, walruses and native Inuit hunters.

9. Narwhals can grow up to 17 feet long (5.2m) and weigh 4,200 pounds (1,905 kg).

10. Defenders.org says, “Narwhals might be more sensitive to impacts of climate change than the polar bear.” Threats to Narwhals include oil and gas development of the Arctic, climate change, and shipping vessels that cause collisions and noise pollution.

Book Review: Tilikum’s Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell

Tilikum's Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell
Tilikum’s Dream by Tracey Lynn Coryell

Tilikum’s Dream (Eifrig Publishing, 2015) is a rhyming children’s book about Tilikum, a killer whale, who recently died (January 6, 2017) in his concrete pool of 21 years at Sea World. It is written by Tracey Lynn Coryell and illustrated by Shelley Marie Overton. I liked Tilikum’s Dream because it is beautifully illustrated and the sparse rhyming prose lends well to the music recording that can be downloaded. It has a strong anti-captivity message not just for killer whales, but for all marine mammals chained for life in captivity. It has a happy ending, unlike the real Tilikum who died never tasting the ocean from which he was born. The short text lends this book towards young school-age children who probably have visited a zoo or aquarium and can imagine Tilikum’s predicament. Proceeds of this book will benefit Blue Freedom, an international non-profit founded by a teenager concerned with Tilikum’s and captive killer whales’ welfare. They have created a film titled “Voiceless,” which is available free on YouTube.

Background on Tilikum:
Tilikum was taken from the icy waters off of Iceland when he was approximately 2 years old. Ever since then he has been in captivity, first at Sealand of the Pacific in British Columbia, Canada. It was there that he killed his first human with the help of two female killer whales. In 1991 Tilikum was sold to Sea World, where he has been ever since. He killed two more people there, including his trainer, Dawn Brancheau. He then became primarily a sperm donor, his genes in 56% of the killer whales in captivity at Sea World. He was the largest orca in captivity at 22 feet long and 12,500 pounds. May he RIP.

To read Tilikum’s Dream for free (one book a month for free!) click here

Humpback Whales Exhibit Altruistic Behavior Towards Other Animal Species

Hunter the Humpback Whale photo by: NOAA Dr. Louis M. Herman
Hunter the Humpback Whale photo by: NOAA Dr. Louis M. Herman

My name is Hunter, and I’m a Humpback Whale. One day I was feeding on krill in Antarctica. I noticed a pod of Orcas on the hunt. They had a poor Weddell Seal trapped on an ice floe. All they had to do was tip the ice floe over and they would have dinner. I felt sorry for the seal, and decided follow my heart and intervene. I am almost 50 feet long and weigh almost 80,000 pounds so I have a distinct size advantage over the orcas. Orcas rarely get over 30 feet long.

The orcas splashed around the ice floe and got it moving back and forth like a teeter-totter. The moment the seal was about to hit the water, I came up underneath him, my belly up. I lifted the grateful seal out of the water. He was a slippery fellow, and I used my long pectoral fins to push the seal back onto my belly every time he slid down. Sure enough, the orcas lost interest and I released the seal into the ocean. He swam off to the safety of another ice floe.

Humans have witnessed and documented over a 100 times around the globe us humpback whales exhibiting this altruistic behavior. We have saved gray whale calves, California sea lions, harbor seals, and Mola mola (sunfish).

It’s just a few moments out of our lives to save an otherwise hapless animal from certain death. As an adult, my safety isn’t at stake. So I help when I can!

This blog post was inspired by this article “Humpback Whales Around the Globe Are Mysteriously Rescuing Animals From Orcas”