Whale you help protect this epic Arctic animal?

They might look like unicorns, but did you know the narwhal is actually a member of the same family as the beluga whale? Similar in size and shape, belugas and narwhals are easy to tell apart thanks to one important feature: their teeth! …wait, what?

That’s right! The narwhal’s tusk is actually a tooth that grows through its upper lip, getting bigger throughout its lifetime. In fact, the tusk can get as big as 3 metres!

Calling all narwhals: can you hear me?!

Like belugas and other underwater animals, narwhals communicate using echolocation. Through a series of clicks and whistles, they can identify objects in their path and also keep tabs on their podmates. Traveling in groups of 10-100, this communication is super important, especially considering narwhals are migratory – the trip from their shallow, ice-free summer waters to deeper, more offshore locations each winter would be pretty long and challenging with no communication!

They need our help!

Tallurutiup Imanga, a National Marine Conservation Area in Nunavut, is an important summering ground for narwhals, but an increase in nearby shipping traffic may be threatening their ability to survive. Narwhals rely on sound to communicate, forage, and detect predators, but shipping traffic can mask their important vocalizations. Because of its harsh climate and remote location, it’s hard to study the narwhal population that relies on Tallurutiup Imanga, so traditional knowledge from Inuit communities that rely on these narwhals is really important.

Earth Rangers is working with University of Manitoba researcher Leah Pengelly on a project that will help us learn more about just how narwhals might be affected by increased shipping traffic in the north. By combining underwater soundscape studies with traditional Inuit knowledge, we can build a much better picture of the health of the marine ecosystem narwhals call home, helping protect it for years to come!

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