Recent drone footage shows how narwhals use their tusks to spear prey

(Mirror Daily, United States) – Scientists have always been wondering what narwhals are using their tusks for, and they may have finally found the answer. Recent drone footage shows the animals making use of their impressive headgear against prey, namely to hit and stun it.

This behavior was first observed by Canadian researchers from the World Wildlife Fund and from Fisheries and Oceans Canada. While flying over Tremblay Sound, Nunavut, drones captured images of narwhals while they were using their tusks to sting Arctic cod and immobilize them, making it easier to feast on.

Narwhals are difficult to study

Since these sea creatures populate the Arctic waters, and researchers find hard them to reach, it has been difficult for them to observe the behavior of these marine creatures. Therefore, this is the first evidence they have of the use of the tusk.

In fact, narwhals do not have tusks, as the weapon is in fact a large tooth spiraling out of the jaw. It is a canine which contains plenty of nerve endings. These endings allow the creatures to feel any kind of movement in water. However, scientists were not sure of the purpose of the tooth.

The tusk kept bugging scientists for decades

They had several theories on the use of the protuberance. Some thought narwhals use it to crack ice, others thought they might be digging up the ocean floor with it. There were also scientists who were right, and said the purpose of the tusk is to spear fish, but nobody had ever observed any of these behaviors.

However, female narwhals do not have tusks. Therefore, it might play a sexual role, like a peacock’s tail, a lion’s mane, or a stag’s antlers. Males are probably using it to establish dominance and to impress females. However, this does not stop them from using it as a weapon to get prey.

This footage opens new ways for research, brings a better understanding of the behavior of narwhals, and leads to new questions on the species.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons