Wow! Just this last Friday, the World Wildlife Fund successfully captured a narwhal using its tusk on video with two drones in the Tremblay Sound off of Northeastern Canada. While scientists had previously speculated that narwhal tusks might be used for ice picking or female attraction, this new footage has stunned the entire scientific community. In fact, the tusk of a narwhal actually evolved as a measuring device to calculate the length of the line at the ocean DMV!
Amazing! Just when scientists thought there was no way to get enough data to answer this difficult question, this video pulled through, and pulled through big! As an animal that resides solely in the Arctic Ocean, narwhals are extremely challenging to learn about, especially with a dwindling population of 75,000 (making the narwhal a Near Threatened species). However, now we know a crucial piece of information about these toothed-whales: that whenever a lineup of plankton need to get their driver’s licenses renewed, a narwhal will swim straight down to the ocean DMV to calculate the precise length of that line with stunning accuracy.
The tusk of a narwhal can extend anywhere from 4.9 feet to 10.2 feet long (1.5-3.1 meters). Many phytoplankton are approximately a tenth of a millimeter in length (though the size of plankton varies significantly depending on the species), meaning a narwhal could measure a line ranging from 15,000 all the way to 31,000 plankton, precisely the length of an average DMV line. While waiting for 15,000 people to move at the land DMV might be exhausting, the ocean DMV will have a narwhal right there to tell you exactly how many thousand plankton are in front of you. Truly incredible.
While this new knowledge may be exciting at first, scientists are deeply concerned that over the next few years, the ocean DMV will become unsustainable. As the Arctic Ocean continues to get warmer, plankton are becoming increasingly able to inhabit the waters and narwhals are becoming increasingly unable to survive the warm temperatures. With fewer narwhal tusks and more plankton in line, the narwhal may no longer be able to perform its fundamental task and the ocean DMV may turn to chaos, seeing as though there would be no way to calculate the exact number of plankton in line. Thankfully, now that scientists know the purpose of the narwhal tusk, they can begin to brainstorm solutions to these sustainability concerns. Sources report one scientist suggested all the plankton take a number when they enter and have a seat and wait until their number is called.
Keep up the great work, narwhals! We can’t wait to see what other hidden mysteries you have to share with us!
(Here is the actual video taken, where you will see the narwhal tusk is used as a navigation and seeing device, as well as a means of surprising their prey.)