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Consider The Narwhal | Katherine Rundell | LRB | 03 January 2019
A fine addition to Katherine Rundell’s brief lives of offbeat animals. The narwhal is “one of the mammals about which we know least”, given that it lives beneath pack ice and swims a mile deep. The name means “corpse whale” in old Norwegian, probably a reference to the narwhal’s mottled grey colouring. Males, and a few females, have single tusks full of nerve endings, that they rub together when meeting. In the middle ages the narwhal tusk was often sold as a unicorn’s horn. Elizabeth I had a jewel-encrusted one said to be worth £10,000 — enough, at the time, to buy and staff a small castle
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