Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter and Narwhals

Well, Felicity, we're still here. So much for the 12/21/12 apocalypse. ;-)

It's the shortest day of the year today, but luckily the days will be getting longer instead of shorter from now until June. It's also the first day of winter! We even got a little bit of slushy snow overnight to get us in the wintery mood.

Unfortunately, there's no more snow on the horizon, so we're almost guaranteed a green Christmas this year. Oh well. Like Mom says, green is a Christmas color too. This December has been such a mild one so far. The 3 times it's "snowed," it's been such a pathetic amount and the ground's still warm enough that it pretty much melts before the day's end. This evening we still have a little on the grass, but like it's really still going to be there by Christmas.

We are on Christmas break! No more school until 2013. I never posted about my arctic animal report before I presented it. I was holding off for last for dramatic effect. My arctic animal was... *drumroll please*

... the narwhal. Get ready for some narwhal fun facts!

* Narwhals are medium-sized toothed whales nicknamed "the unicorns of the sea" because of their spiralling tusks. During medieval times, narwhal tusks that washed ashore were thought to be unicorn horns.

* A narwhal tusk is actually a tooth that grows through the narwhal's upper lip. The tusks are hollow and relatively light, and they continue to grow throughout the whale's life.

* Female sometimes (but not always) grow a tusk, but males' tusks are bigger and more spiralled - up to 8.8 feet in length! Scientist don't know for sure what purpose the tusks serve. Occasionally, both males and females have been known to grow two tusks.
male

tuskless female

middle narwhal has 2 tusks

* The word narwhal comes from the Old Norse word nár, which means "corpse." This is because adult narwhals have grayish, mottled-looking skin (sort of like the corpse of a drowned person - yuck!)

* Adult narwhals are 13-20 feet long and weigh around 3,500 pounds. This is how big a typical narwhal is compared to a school bus:

* A newborn narwhal calf is about 5 feet long and weighs between 175 and 220 pounds. Calves start out gray-brown in color but grow more and more mottled with white as they age until they are quite pale.

* Narwhals have been known to live up to 50 years.

* Narwhals are some of the deepest diving mammals. They can dive up to 1500 meters deep and can hold their breath for up to 25 minutes.

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