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A Swimming Unicorn?
The narwhal tusk is actually a tooth - one of a pair in the Arctic whale's upper jaw. The teeth of the female remain normal, but the male's left tooth protrudes and can reach a length of 3 meters / 9½ feet.
As the tusk grows, it twists, which compensates for any growth irregularity at the tusk base. The result is one long straight tusk with a spiral structure.
During the 17th century the narwhal's tusk was thought to be the horn of the legendary unicorn. Vikings reinforced this belief when they brought the spiralling tusks to Europe, and they guarded the source of the tusks from other Europeans for over 300 years.
European traders could turn huge profits on the rare tusks, and they were willing to pay "top" prices to the hunters who brought them in. This led to the Narwhals, once hunted for their meat, being killed for only their tusks. The meat was often left to rot.
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Library: Whales, Animals, Arctic
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ARCTIC LIBRARY & GLOSSARY: Check this section for an index of the rest of the things you really need to know about the Arctic.
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ARCTIC LINKS: Even more information! Links to sites related to the Arctic and "Iceberg: the Story of the Throps and the Squallhoots".
GUIDE TO ARCTIC SUNRISE & SUNSET: How much sunlight or darkness is there in the Arctic on each day of the year?
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