Maggie Koerth-Baker is a guest blogger on Boing Boing. A freelance science and health journalist, Maggie lives in Minneapolis, brain dumps on Twitter, and writes quite often for mental_floss magazine.
Fact: Unicorns and Narwhals are mortal enemies. Everybody knows this. But did you know how the conflict began?
How the Conflict Began
It was a simple case of mistaken identity, turned deadly. The Narwhals--basically mid-sized whales with a bad case of bucktooth--were just swimming around in the sea, minding their own business, when medieval Europeans began to cut a swath of destruction, killing Narwhals in order to sell the animals' unique tooth as a "unicorn horn".
Which is a shame, both because of the needless Narwhal deaths and because the Narwhal tooth is actually pretty zippy on its own, even without trying to pass it off as a piece of mythology. The tooth of the male Narwhal is the only known tooth in the world to grow in a spiral shape. It's also constructed very differently from other animals' teeth. Instead of having hard material on the outside, and soft stuff within, the Narwhal's tooth structure is completely reversed. Weirder still, each of these tooth-tusks, which can reach up to 8 ft. in length, has more than 10 million exposed nerve endings. Harvard University professor/dentist Martin Nweeia thinks the tooth might actually be a sensor, helping Narwhal navigate through Arctic waters by monitoring changes in pressure, temperature and water chemistry.
The Video Documentary of the War
In 2006, CalArts student Adrian Molina captured the glory and aftermath of an epic Unicorn vs. Narwhal battle as his junior year film project.
Take the Fight Home
Now you can act out your own Unicorn v. Narwhal battle scenes on your bedroom floor, using this action figure play set.
According to the packaging, which, I am certain, is every bit as reliable a source as Dr. Nweeia, Narwhal horns can "conjure sea demons, kill vampires and are self cleaning."
Unicorns, on the other hand, can merely "deflect lighting bolts" and "shoot rainbow beams" with their chocolate-filled horns. Plus, while biologists estimate there are about 50,000 living Narwhal, these same biologists do not even believe a single Unicorn exists.
I think I know whose side I'm on.
Oh yeah, and Unicorns also have the disadvantage of having made other animal enemies, for much the same reasons as their conflict with the Narwhal. You can read about the Elasmotherium, another beast that is surely gunning for Unicorn hide, in my book, Be Amazing.