Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Thar She Blows!

Cetologists have long struggled to understand the function of the narwhal's tusk. (Narwhals are artic toothed whales that grow to body lengths of about 5 m. Most males and some females have an unusual tusk that grows from the left side of the upper jaw, has a clockwise-helical shape, and reaches lengths up to 3 m.) The mystery has finally been solved---and by a dentist. Martin Nweeia, a practicing dentist and a lecturer at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, has found that the tusk is densely innervated and is used to detect temperature, pressure, salinity, and other parameters, in both water and air. Nweeia also has one of the most fun-to-read names I've ever encountered. I mean, it starts with "Nw" and then ends with 4 consecutive vowels. Hunh?

Check out the Live Science article for more crazy narwhal facts and the NPR story for the pronunciation of Nweeia's name.

No comments:

Post a Comment