I’m so lame.

Sorry for my silence lately.

I have a list of excuses but I’m just gonna get into it now.

I’m gonna switch gears a little bit and talk about the narwhal.

Monodon monoceros

So. These whales are related to the beluga (Monodontidae fam).

Interesting facts about these two whales, their neck vertebrae are not fused like many other cetaceans. This allows more neck mobility. Interesting fact about the narwhal specifically? They have a damn unicorn horn! (Giant tooth… whatever.)

The horn is useless when the ice freezes over. (They suffocate which makes me question how in the hell does that happen?!) Logic to this – they dive 4900 feet (1900 m) for 25 minutes for prey that lives on or near the sea ice. Sea ice floats and moves. A current can move this ice and…

BAM

Trapped Narwhal. *

*This is based on a minutely educated guess.

Narwhals don’t have a dorsal fin – easier to get under that sea ice. Males have no “sweep back” on their tail flukes which reduces the drag from the unicorn horn.

Speaking of the unicorn horn. Let’s look at some stats.

  • Double tusked males – 1 in 500.
  • Females with a tusk – 15%
  • Double tusked female – 1.
    • Yes. One in recorded history.

Why do they have the horn?

That’s a topic that’s highly debated. Dr. Martin Nweeia says it’s a giant sensory organ. Essentially, water travels through canals in the tooth and transmits to the fifth cranial nerve. In his study, he compared prepared samples and live narwhals. He looked at their diet, histology, gene expression and neurophysiology. While analyzing the gene expression, they used bottlenose dolphin, striped dolphin and human genes as a comparison because narwhals hadn’t been sequenced. Ya know. Instead of sequencing it themselves. (-sips tea.-) The argument for bottlenose dolphin and striped dolphins was taxonomy reasons. According to current accepted taxonomy, Monodontidae (belugas) and Phocoenidae (porpoises) share a common ancestor. Yes. Delphinidae does branch off before their split but it would make more sense to use Phocoenidae.

When they used the live narwhals, they corralled them over to shallow water and hooked them up to EEGs.

So. What is wrong with this?

Being subjected to testing could explain the heart rate increase. (How often does your heart rate increase at the doctors?)

What about the females? If it was giving vital information about the environment, wouldn’t the females also have it more than 15% of the time?

As Kristin Laidre, marine biologist from University of Washington points out, “The narwhal tusk is a tooth, and teeth are sensitive.”

I’m of the belief that the tusk is the result of sexual selection (like the peacock tail). Yes. There is some horn jousting but that’s not the only use for it.

Hopefully, I won’t suck and post more.

I leave you with the best thing about narwhals.

References:

Sensory ability in the narwhal tooth organ system – http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ar.22886/full

Narwhal’s Trademark Tusk Acts Like a Sensor, Scientist Says – http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/03/140318-narwhal-tusk-tooth-anatomy-ocean-animal-science/

Narwhal – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narwhal

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The Fucking Right Whale

People who know me in real life know I’m obsessed with marine mammals. To the point of having a tattoo of a dolphin (not like a basic chick though. It’s totally unique… quit judging me.)

One of my least favorites is the right whale. So named as they were the right whale to hunt. Large, slow, float when killed… etc…

They come in three flavors; North Atlantic right whale (Eubalaena glacialis), North Pacific right whale (Eubalaena japonica) and Southern right whale (Eubalaena australis).

They’re baleen whales (mysticete if you want to sound fancy). They have dark skin and lighter undersides. (Countershading.)

They develop callosites (clusters of rough skin that accumulates whale lice) that “look like facial hair”.

So outside of whaling, the major causes of death are ship strikes and entanglement. They get hit by boats so often that’s how aerial and boat surveys identify individuals. Callosites and strike marks. So, of course, we have to help them!

The wonderful marine biologists tried to help. These whales tend to stay close to the coast. They migrate from the Arctic down to the tip of Florida. While they’re migrating, they don’t eat. This is particularly fucking awful because they get entangled and starve to death slowly. The reason they don’t eat more is because their favored prey (copepods) are in the Arctic. To reduce ship strikes, they started using a “warning” tone to warn the whales. When this happens, they go positively buoyant right under the surface and do not move which didn’t help with the strikes. So current strike reduction methods are having larger ships reducing their speed to 10 knots in known migration area.

As mentioned before, the whalers targeted these whales because they float when they die. Their shit also floats. (I found this out in an environmental physiology lecture.)

I’m sure there is more I can add but right this minute, I’m drawing a blank. Blame it on lack of sleep.