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The Mysterious Unicorn (Grade 6)

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The Mysterious Unicorn
by Katelyn Shultz

Did you know there is a creature in the Arctic Ocean that looks as if it is half whale, half unicorn? Indeed, it is true!

What is this creature you ask? It is a narwhal, the unicorn of the sea!

To set the facts straight, a narwhal is not half unicorn at all. It is not an imaginary creature. It is completely real! Despite the single horn on top of its head, it is 100% whale. I’m sure you must have many questions about this unique creature, so let’s get to answering some of the big questions!

What is the narwhal’s “horn” used for?

First of all, the narwhal’s horn is not a horn at all. It is called a tusk. The most interesting part about their tusk, is it’s actually a giant tooth! However, this tooth is not used for chewing. The purpose of this giant tooth is actually a huge mystery. Even though we know the unicorn of the sea isn’t an imaginary creature, it truly is a mysterious one! Let’s look for some clues!

The first clue scientists have found is tusks have many nerve endings. You may be wondering what nerve endings are. Nerve endings are what our bodies and animal’s bodies use to feel the world around them. As a result of the nerve endings found within the tusks, scientists believe they use their tusk to sense changes within their environment. To find another clue about the purpose of a narwhal’s tusk, we have to move on to the next question!

Do all narwhals have a tusk?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of narwhals without a tusk! Why would some not have tusks? This leads us to the second clue about the purpose of the tusk. Only male narwhals typically have one, and only a small percentage of female narwhals have a small tusk. This phenomenon gives scientists a hint about the purpose of the narwhal’s tusk!

When we observe other animals, we can see males are more likely to have unique traits to attract females. Cardinals are a great example of this pattern. Cardinals are a bird typically associated with the male color pattern. Male cardinals are a bright red, while female cardinals are light brown with red on the tips of their wings and tails. When we think of a cardinal, we typically imagine a red bird, because male cardinals have the more unique features associated with this type of bird. Similarly, when we picture a narwhal, we typically would imagine a male because of their unique tusk.

As a result of the observations that tusks are mainly found on male narwhals, scientists believe the tusk may play a role in attracting a mate. Female narwhals must find the tusk very handsome! Now that we’ve found this clue, we know what scientists believe about why the narwhal looks like the unicorn of the sea. Despite these ideas, scientists don’t have a final answer to explain all of the purposes of this magical looking tusk.

The mystery continues for them, but for now we have solved what we can! Let’s move on to three fun facts about narwhals!

Fun Fact #1:Did you know some narwhals have two tusks? It’s true! Narwhals have two teeth that can grow into a tusk, and sometimes they both grow into a tusk.

Fun Fact #2: How long do you think a narwhal’s tusk can grow to be? It can grow to be 10 feet long! That’s likely taller than the room you’re in from the floor to the ceiling!

Fun Fact #3: Do you know how big a baby narwhal is? A baby narwhal is known properly as a calf, and the average size calf is typically 5 feet long when it’s born. Some people only grow to be 5 feet tall as an adult, so the size of these creatures is quite astounding!

Now that you know what a narwhal is, this is just a start to learning about this mysterious creature. There is still so much to learn! Maybe you should look for more clues about the mysterious unicorn of the sea. Who knows what you may find!
1. 
Is the narwhal a real animal?
  1. Yes
  2. No
2. 
What is unique about the narwhal's tusk?
  1. It is actually a giant tooth.
  2. It regrows if it is cut off.
  3. It is only found on baby narwhals.
  4. It can glow in deep ocean waters.
3. 
What does the author compare a narwhal's tusk to?
  1. a utensil for eating
  2. a cardinal's color
  3. a rhino's horn
  4. a large ruler
4. 
How long can a narwhal's tusk grow to be?
  1. 10 inches
  2. 1 foot
  3. 10 feet
  4. 3 yards
5. 
Which type of narwhal is most likely to have a tusk?
  1. a male
  2. a baby
  3. a female
  4. a small one
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