Saturday, November 22, 2008

The Narwhal Exposed

If you have ever been swimming in the Northern Atlantic Ocean, and afterward you felt as if you had just visited a proctologist, chances are you had an encounter with a narwhal. The narwhal is a medium sized whale (for reference purposes, a blue whale would be a large sized whale, and Rush Limbaugh would be a small sized whale) usually found in Arctic regions of the oceans.

When you look at a narwhal, the first thing you'll notice is that it has no arms or legs. The next thing you'll figure out is that the narwhal is wet, as it lives in water. For those of you with keen senses of observation, you will be able to identify the narwhal's most distinguishing feature - its single tusk. The tusk is actually a tooth, one of only two teeth the narwhal sports (this characteristic leads some naturalists believe that the narwhal's origin is Arkansas).

For reasons not entirely understood, the left tooth of the male narwhal grows to colossal proportions; up to ten feet in some cases. That's a big tooth. Every now and then a female will don an elongated tooth, but it doesn't grow as large as the average male's tusk. These are probably the feminist narwhals, who have become increasingly predominant in the narwhalian government. Some experts believe the purpose of the gargantuan tooth is to break ice for breathing holes. But, they use their bulbous heads for that. Others believe that the tusk is used to fend off predators, but the tusk is too fragile and would break off in any kind of skirmish, leaving the narwhal not only prone to being eaten, but really embarrassed. The most popular theory is that male narwhals use the tusk as an aid to establish dominance in battles over females. It is a similar concept to the sword fighting that occurs in high school locker rooms between teenage boys. That is all bunk, of course, because it is obvious that the primary use of the narwhal tusk is billiards.

As with most animals that have hard things growing out of them, the narwhal is a favorite target of humans. Humans just can't get enough of ripping tusks off animals like narwhals and elephants to carve useless knickknacks out of them. Consequently, narwhal populations have dwindled, but not to the point of sanctioned endangerment (but give us time). It's not that I mind the merciless killing of helpless animals - it's all the damn knickknacks. They're everywhere. Knick knack paddy whack, give the dog a bone, this old narwhal needs dentures now (except that he's dead). People should buy stuff they can actually use. And if they absolutely need some bric-a-brac, they can carve them out of bones of dead relatives. It's a great way to promote family unity.

Narwhals weigh between one and two tons. Their diet consists of mostly squid, crabs, shrimp and fish. That does not say much for you fish eaters out there who think you are keeping the weight off by eating seafood. Better start eating some burgers before your left tooth starts growing. Narwhals measure about thirteen to sixteen feet long. Their appearance is similar to that of the Beluga whale (except for that crazy tooth), with whom they can be found swimming together. Neither of these traveling buddies have dorsal fins. That could explain why they choose to hang out with each other, since the other dorsal-finned whales tend to ridicule them. "Hey, Beluga, where's your dorsal fin? Doesn't your mommy let you where one? Are you not whale enough to grow one? Your back looks like that of a land dwelling mammal. You LANDLUBBER! You, too, Narwhal!"

The scientific name of the narwhal is Monodon monoceros, which means "one tooth, one horn". They should be called Monodon huge monodon, since, as we know, the horn is actually a tooth. This single horn-like appearance has sparked some people to refer to the narwhal as the "unicorn of the sea". I think it's safe to say that it is the "unicorn of the world' until somebody comes up with evidence that a horse-like unicorn ever existed. The narwhal gets little respect from most special interest groups. Once exception to that are the Inuit people of Canada and Greenland. They call the narwhal "Qilalugat tugaliit", which means "as far as whales go, you are our favorite." Although they seldom refer to the narwhal by its full name since nobody is exactly sure how to pronounce the "Q" sound without the corresponding "u". So, they use the affectionate nickname of "Boner".

Narwhals live approximately 50 years, barring "higher species" intervention. They follow the philosophy coined by The Who: "I hope I die before I get old." No worries about social security in the narwhal camp. For this reason, their economy has always been strong. Like other whales, they communicate with each other using pulses and clicks. There are about 25,000 to 45,000 narwhals out there, so it is unlikely that you'll meet one walking down the street. Even if you did, you probably wouldn't be able to understand what it was saying to you. But, if you do meet one, and he wants you to give him a ride in your convertible, don't put the top up. Sometimes they get a little "sword-happy" with those tusks, and you won't know that when he says, "Pulse, pulse, click, pulse, click, click" that he's actually saying, "Hey, look, I'm Zorro!". There goes your rag top.


del said...

I think the name Narwhal is cool. You should have named the boy Narwhal Rub.

keysunset said...

Dear Naturalist Rub,

I enjoyed your informative column, it's like Ranger Rick for the older set.

Or maybe "The Undersea World of Moist Cousteau," or "Rub Planet"!

Your curious friend

Anonymous said...

That article is very amusing :) and informative at the same time, please become a famous author/journalist and make reading a textbook or the newspaper bearable!