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Narwhal

tusks, front and tusk

NARWHAL, niir'wed (front Swed.. Pall. ncnlrctl, Icon. nab ralr, probably front Teel. nor, corpse + /t role, whale; so called from the pale color of the skin). A cetacean of the family Belughl.e, icst•nhling the white whale in form and in the want of a dorsal fin, but remarkably characterized by having no h.etli at all, except two in the upper jaw, supposed to be canines, one and occasionally both of which (in the male) develop into spirally twisted straight tusks, passing through the upper lip, and projecting like horns in front. When, as usually, only one is so produced, it is always the left one. Only one species is known (Monodon inonoccros), of Arctic seas, where narwhals are often seen in great numbers among the ice-fields. and in the creeks and bays, always active and playful. A mature narwhal is generally about 15 feet in length, besides the tusk, wide]] is from 6 to 10 feet long. The tusk is hollow nearly to the point, and is spirally grooved. Its use is rather conjectured than known: it is probably a weapon of defense, but it may also be used for breaking thin k-e in order to breathe, and for killing lisp.

The remains of skates and other flattish have been found in the stomach of a narwhal. and it is not easy to imagine how a toothless animal, with rather small lips. could capture and swal low such prey unless the formidable tusk were lirst employed. Cephalopod mollusks, however, are believed to constitute a principal part of the food. The narwhal is pursued by the Eski mos for food, and for the sake of its blubber, with which the whole body is invested to the thickness of about three inches. weighing nearly half a ton and yielding a large amount of excellent oil. The tusks are also valuable, as they are denser, harder, and whiter than ivory. The kings of Denmark have lung possessed a magnificent throne of this material, preserved in the Castle of Rosenberg. Great medicinal virtues were formerly ascribed to the tusks. The animal has been called the 'sea-unicorn.'