Fragment of a narwhal tusk

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17th century(?)
Narwhal tusk
88 cm
6 cm

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Narwhal tusks are unique and fascinating structures found in male narwhals, which are medium-sized toothed whales native to Arctic waters. The tusk is actually an elongated tooth that protrudes from the left side of the narwhal's upper jaw, spiraling counterclockwise. Narwhal tusks can grow up to several meters in length, though most are around 2 to 3 meters. They are straight and spiral-shaped.

The material of a narwhal tusk is actually a type of ivory, similar to that found in the tusks of elephants and other mammals. It's composed of dentin, a hard, dense tissue that forms the bulk of most teeth, including human teeth. Dentin is covered by a thin layer of enamel at the tip of the tusk. The specific composition and structure of narwhal tusks give them their distinctive appearance and strength.

Narwhal tusks have long captured the human imagination and have been the subject of various myths and legends. They have also been highly prized by indigenous Arctic peoples for centuries, who have crafted them into ceremonial objects and artwork.In the 17th century most owners believed the tusk was coming from a unicorn as it resembles the horn. Ole Worm was responsible for identifying the narwhal's tusk as coming from a whale rather than a unicorn While the exact function of the narwhal tusk is not fully understood, it is believed to serve several purposes. It may play a role in mating rituals, determining social status, or even in sensing changes in the environment such as water temperature, pressure, or the presence of predators. Recent research suggests that the narwhal tusk may have sensory capabilities. Studies have found nerve endings extending through the tusk, indicating that it could be used to detect changes in the environment, locate prey, or even sense water chemistry.


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