narwhalian /nahr hway"lee euhn, -way"-, -wol"ee-/, adj.
/nahr"weuhl/, n.
a small arctic whale, Monodon monoceros, the male of which has a long, spirally twisted tusk extending forward from the upper jaw.
Also, narwal, narwhale /nahr"hwayl', -wayl'/.
[1650-60; < Scand; cf. Norw, Sw, Dan nar(h)val, reshaped from ON nahvalr, equiv. to nar corpse + hvalr WHALE1; allegedly so called because its skin resembles that of a human corpse]

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or narwal or narwhale

Toothed whale (Monodon monoceros, family Monodontidae) of the Arctic, found in groups of 15–20 along coasts and sometimes in rivers.

Narwhals are mottled gray, attain a length of 11.5–16 ft (3.5–5 m), and have no dorsal fin. They have only two teeth, at the upper jaw tip. The male's left tooth is a straight, protruding tusk, up to 8.9 ft (2.7 m) long, that is grooved on the surface in a left-handed spiral. It was prized in medieval times as the unicorn horn. The tusk is thought to have evolved as a sexual display. Narwhals eat fishes, cephalopods, and crustaceans. They are hunted by humans for their tusks and meat.

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also spelled  narwal  or  narwhale 
 a small, toothed whale found along coasts and in rivers throughout the Arctic. Males possess a long, straight tusk that projects forward from above the mouth.

      Narwhals lack a dorsal fin, and in adults the flippers are turned upward at the tips. Their mottled gray bodies are darker above than below, and they usually attain a length of 3.5 to 5 metres (11.5 to 16.4 feet), with males being larger than females. Adult males weigh about 1,600 kg (3,500 pounds); females weigh about 1,000 kg.

      The narwhal has two teeth, both at the tip of the upper jaw, but usually only the left tooth develops. The resulting tusk grows to more than three metres and is grooved on the surface in a left-handed spiral. The undeveloped right tooth in males and usually both teeth in females remain vestigial. On rare occasions two tusks may develop in females as well as males. Although a variety of theories have been proposed for the specific function of this tooth, recent observations suggest that the males use their tusks in aggression against one another as they compete for mates. The tusk was prized in medieval times as the horn of the fabled unicorn.

      Narwhals are usually found in groups of 15 to 20, but herds of several thousand have been seen. Newborn narwhal calves are about 1.6 metres long. Calves are weaned after a year or more; females reach sexual maturity at about six years and males at eight. They feed on fish, squid, and shrimp.

      Predators of the narwhal include killer whales and, to a lesser extent, polar bears and walruses. Eskimos () hunt them mainly for the ivory tusk and the skin, which is rich in vitamin C. Occasionally, hundreds of narwhals and beluga whales (beluga) become trapped by pack ice in a pool of open water (savssat in the West Greenland dialect). The whales may then become prey to the local Inuit hunters or die as ice closes the hole.

      Narwhals and belugas are related, and together they compose the family Monodontidae of suborder Odontoceti (the toothed whales). The origin of the term narwhal may be the Icelandic words nar, meaning “corpse” (in reference to its pale colour), and hvalr (whale). The scientific name is derived from the Greek words for “single-toothed” and “single-horned,” respectively.

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Universalium. 2010.

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, , (Monodon monoceros)

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • narwhal — (n.) 1650s, from Dan. and Norw. narhval, probably a metathesis of O.N. nahvalr, lit. corpse whale, from na corpse + hvalr whale (see WHALE (Cf. whale)). So called from resemblance of its whitish color to that of dead bodies. The first element is… …   Etymology dictionary

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  • narwhal — [17] The narwhal, a small arctic whale with a long unicorn like tusk, is whitish in colour, which evidently reminded Viking seafarers somewhat morbidly of a corpse, for they named it in Old Icelandic nāhvalr, literally ‘corpse whale’. In Danish… …   Word origins

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