Narwhals are medium-size marine mammals known for their characteristic tusk that resembles a unicorn’s horn. Their reclusive nature and remote Arctic habitat only adds to the mystery of these creatures.
The name “narwhal” comes from the Norse words “nar” (corpse) and “hval” (whale). The name refers to how the whale’s dappled gray skin resembles that of a drowned sailor, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The scientific name for narwhal is Monodon monoceros, which means “one tooth, one horn” in Latin.
The narwhal’s closest living relative is the beluga whale (Delphinapterus leucas). Both narwhals and belugas belong to the Odontoceti group, or toothed whales (as opposed to Mysticeti, or baleen whales), and are the only two living species within the Monodontidae family. Both whale species spend their entire lives in the Arctic Ocean, are similar in size and behavior, and on rare occasions have been known to interbreed.