Environment

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AP Photo/John McConnico

Global Warming Poses Great Risk to Narwhal

April 30, 2008 10:00 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Although polar bears grab more headlines, the narwhal, an arctic mammal with a distinctive tusk, could be more severely affected by climate change.

30-Second Summary

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The narwhal is an “arctic whale characterized by a single spiraled tusk extending six to nine feet” that is “often associated with the horn of the unicorn,” according to The Narwhal Tusk Research organization.

The narwhal has been featured in mythical tales, but the threat to its habitat is very real.

In an April 2008 study, the narwhal “edged out the polar bear for the ranking of most potentially vulnerable in a climate change risk analysis of Arctic marine mammals,” reports the Associated Press.

The study focused on 11 arctic mammals, examining “nine different variables that help determine ability to withstand future climate changes,” including “ population size, habitat uniqueness, diet diversity and ability to cope with sea ice changes,” reported the AP.

This is not the first time that attention has been called to the plight of the narwhal.

In April 2007, an “anomaly in climate change” was discovered, said U.K. newspaper The Independent. In Baffin Bay in Northern Canada, ice had frozen over “cracks in the ice and patches of open water” where wintering narwhals would normally have surfaced to breathe.

Ironically, according to Martin T. Nweeia, leader of a team of narwhal researchers, the narwhal “is intent on understanding its environment.”

Headline Links: Narwhal in peril

Background: The mythical narwhal and its tusk

Reference: Investigation of climate change risk in the Arctic

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