Narwhal The Arctic Unicorn

Narwhal the Arctic Unicorn
Justin Anderson and Jo Weaver
Walker Books

Stunning illustrations by Jo Weaver grace every page of this awe inspiring narrative information book written by Planet Earth 11 producer Justin Anderson who, with the help of his team, captured the first aerial footage of narwhal migration for the Nature’s Great Events documentary.

The book takes readers to the frozen Arctic inviting them to dive down deep into the icy waters and follow some narwhals aka ‘toothed whales’, relations of killer whales and dolphins. I was previously unaware that it’s mostly males that grow the characteristic long, sensitive tusk suggesting their possible use as a display tool for attracting females.

In the murky waters we see right up close one narwhal that has reached its half century, chasing a massive flatfish for food.

We also follow the entire pod as the journey north continues for hundreds of miles and are shown the incredible jousting behaviour, that it’s been suggested might be to determine which male is in charge.

For the females, it’s time many miles further on, to pause their journey and having carried their babies inside for a whole year, to give birth. The calves then spend between two and three years with their mothers, after which time the young males grow a small tusk; one that will eventually grow more than two metres long; the occasional one perhaps becoming a ‘double tusker’ a phenomenon new to me.

Eventually the pod reaches its High Arctic Island destination where the sun has warmed the sea and melted most of the ice. That’s where a calf will grow rapidly, thanks to its mother’s milk. Sometimes however predatory killer whales may have tracked a pod and guided by that old narwhal, they have to escape to a safe hiding place. September heralds the end of summer when once again it’s time to move and the pod’s long journey south begins.

After the narrative is a page giving facts about the future of these wonderful animals, now sadly threatened by climate change and humans encroaching on their habitat. Other backmatter gives some websites giving more information on how to help secure narwhals a safe future as well as an index.

A must have for anyone who cares about the ‘Arctic unicorns’.

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