Unicorns may be mythological creatures but the narwhal is very real. Read on to learn some fascinating facts about the unicorn of the sea.

narwhalphoto: Stacy Spensley via flickr 

1. Narwhals are basically whales that sport a spiraled horn, or tusk, that juts out of their head much like a unicorn horn. Some narwhals actually have two tusks.

2. The narwhal’s tusk is actually a long jutting tooth. It even has nerves.

3. The tusk can grow as long as 10 feet. A narwhal can be 17 feet in length (plus the tusk!).

4. Narwhals sometimes use their tusks to joust.

5. They live in the Arctic waters of Greenland, Norway, Canada and Russia.

6. Narwhals weigh as much as 4200 pounds.

7. They eat squid, shrimp, halibut and cod.

8. There are about 80,000 narwhals throughout the Arctic waters.

9. Historians actually think that the narwhals are what the unicorns myth is base on. During the Middle Ages, unicorn horns were so coveted that royalty would pay extraordinary prices for them, often the weight of the horn in gold. Hunters traveled to Northern Europe to try and capture the narwhals and bring back their horns (which they would tell the royals were from unicorns).

10. Narwhals are still hunted today for their tusks, and in addition face other environmental threats like pollution. You can help by adopting a narwhal (bonus: you get a plush narwhal as a keepsake!).

Have you ever seen a narwhal? 

—Amber Guetebier