What Do Narwhals Eat? [Complete Diet]

Narwhals are carnivorous animals that love to hunt and eat live prey. Their favourite foods include shrimp, polar and Arctic cod, Gonatus squid, and Greenland halibut. In winter, they voraciously eat Gonatus squid or Greenland halibut.

Narwhals have a somewhat different diet from the other whales in the whale family because these are the only whales that have teeth.Narwhals are normally found eating in the deep sea. They can dive to depths of about 4000 feet, where they create suction with their mouths to capture their prey.

Let’s explore more about the diet of a narwhal and learn even more about their eating habits!

Is a Narwhal a Carnivore or an Omnivore?

Narwhals are carnivores. They are not omnivores at all because their diet does not consist of any plants at all. They consume marine life that is difficult to access due to its depth in the ocean, including crustaceans like squid and shrimp. This makes them carnivores.

What Is a Narwhal’s Favourite Food? Let’s Explore

Narwhals are pretty moody sea animals. Their food choices tend to change seasonally! Narwhals have a wide variety of favorite foods, including Greenland halibut, Gonatus squid, polar and Arctic cod, and shrimp.

However, these kinds of whales are highly dependent on prey that is only found in icy northern waters.

They are mostly found eating polar and Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, flounder, rockfish, native fish, and cognatus squid.

Sometimes, narwhals also eat shrimp, small crustaceans, and smaller cephalopods.

Seasonal Variations in the Diet of Narwhals

Narwhal

Although narwhals consume a large amount of food each day, it has been discovered that, like many other animals, their diet varies depending on whether it is summer or winter. Let’s learn more about the variations in a narwhal’s diet!

Summertime is the period when narwhals eat intensely, feeding on various seafood. They are mostly seen eating Greenland halibut, Arctic cod, and many other small fish, including polar cod.

On the other hand, a narwhal’s diet seems to become less and less constrained during the winter. They are observed feeding on benthic prey, mostly flatfish, while submerged beneath a thick layer of ice.

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What Do Baby Narwhals Eat? Do They Consume Milk?

Baby narwhals are one of the cutest sea animals ever. When young, they rely on their mother’s milk for almost 20 whole months! After the nursing period, when narwhal calves grow a little older and learn fully from the experience of staying around their mothers, they start to consume small fish, crustaceans, and squid.

These calves may also consume small plants. As they grow even older, they begin to eat fewer crustaceans and more fish. They begin eating the favorite food of every narwhal when they are fully grown.

How Much Do Narwhals Eat?

Even though the diet of a narwhal changes seasonally, narwhals are known to have a huge appetite. They mainly feed in the winter, feeding intensely in the winter and eating little during the ice-free summer season.

A narwhal eats almost 10 times per day on average, which results in them consuming 66 pounds of food each day!

Where Do Narwhals Eat?

Narwhals are mostly found wintering under the sea ice deep in the Baffin Bay-Davis Strait.

However, during other times of the year, narwhals stay and eat in the Arctic waters connected with Greenland, Norway, Canada, and Russia.

In the summer, they migrate all the way to the coastal waters and move offshore to avoid getting trapped in ice in both Canada and Greenland.

How Do Narwhals Catch Their Prey?

This question has remained a great mystery for scientists for all these years! It was assumed that narwhals spread their food for the longest time before swallowing it. Scientists have known for quite some time that the tusk of a narwhal has nerves, but they were still unsure of how they caught their prey.

Now, for the first time ever, scientists have recorded a video of how narwhals use their tusks and how they catch their prey.

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According to the video and scientists’ new research, it has been found that narwhals use their tusks to knock out their prey. Once they stun the fish, they become immobile and easier to attack and swallow.

How Do Narwhals Eat?

Narwhals are whales with a very unique way of eating. If you know what a narwhal looks like, you might wonder whether it uses its tusk to spear food.

Well, they don’t spear their food; however, they actually have a suction feeder in their tusk that they use to catch their prey.

They don’t eat with their tusks; hence, they are also known as the unicorns of the sea. These whales do not have any teeth, which is why they are unable to chew food. This means that narwhals swallow their food whole!

Moreover, before narwhals dive deep into the ocean to find their prey, they come up to the surface to breathe in some oxygen through their blowhole because, just like us humans, narwhals have a huge pair of lungs.

How Often Does Narwhal Eat?

Narwhal

Narwhals are one of the animals that eat a lot of food every single day of their lives. Unlike humans, instead of eating 3 meals per day, narwhals eat about 10 times a day!

If that blows your mind, then wait till you hear this. Narwhals do not just eat small quantities of food 10 times throughout their day; a narwhal eats about 66 pounds of food per day on average!

How Long Can a Narwhal Go Without Eating?

The answer to this is pretty ironic! That is because a narwhal spends most of its time diving into the ocean to find food to eat.

However, it is also known to be one of the only animals that can starve itself for a long time. You might be wondering that if a narwhal eats 10 times a day, it cannot stay hungry for long.

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Despite this, according to a study conducted by Manh Cuong Ngô and some of his colleagues from the University of Copenhagen, narwhals can stay hungry for about 3 days without eating a single meal!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do narwhals need oxygen?

Narwhals are mammals, and they rest on the surface of the ocean, where they breathe oxygen, before going deep underwater to hunt for food. They breathe oxygen through a blowhole, which is just a hole on top of their head.

Do narwhals eat meat?

No, narwhals don’t eat meat. They consume polar and Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, shrimp, armhook squid, and cuttlefish as part of a reasonably specialized diet.

Do narwhals eat plants?

Narwhals are carnivorous animals. This indicates that they eat primarily seafood and very few plants. In a nutshell, narwhals don’t eat a plant-based diet.

Can narwhals chew their food?

Narwhals are unable to chew their food. This is because narwhals don’t have teeth and hence, cannot chew their food. Instead, they eat particular sea creatures that they can just swallow whole!

Can narwhals stay hungry for 3 days?

Narwhals spend the majority of their time searching for food, but surprisingly, they can also go without eating for almost three days, according to a study by Manh Cuong Ngô.

Conclusion

Narwhals are interesting creatures with features that are pretty rare. These carnivores eat fish and invertebrates in the Arctic, such as Arctic cod, Greenland halibut, squid, shrimp, and other marine life. In order to capture prey and feed at or near the ocean floor in deep water, they create suction with their mouth.

During the winter, they feed mostly on flatfish under a very dense pack of ice. On average, narwhals eat 16-31 kg of food per day. Narwhals are known to feed around 10 times per day but can also stay hungry for 3 whole days!

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