Beluga whales and narwhals are the only two living species in their family. Their neck bones are not fused or joined together, giving them the ability to turn their head without turning their entire body. Neither species has a dorsal fin, only a ridge where the fin normally is found. The lack of a fin is unusual in whales. Members of this family range in size about 4 to 5 meters and in weight from 680 to 1,600 kg.
Narwhals live in deep water farther north than any other whale, following the ice pack as it grows and recedes. Beluga whales live in shallower water and are sometimes found farther south. They can survive in freshwater and have occasionally been found swimming hundreds of miles upriver from the ocean.
Both these species are bottom feeders, diving deep to eat squid, fish, and shrimp.
Beluga whales are considered Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction. Not enough is known about the size of the narwhal population to give them a conservation rating. All narwhals that have been taken into captivity have lived only a few months.
Beluga: Species accounts:-
Physical characteristics:- Beluga whales, sometimes called white whales, begin life colored light gray, then turn darker gray and become white as they mature. They are the only species of whale that is completely white. Beluga whales range in length from 4 to 5 meters and in weight from 1,500 to 3,500 pounds. Males are about 25 percent larger than females. Geographic range:- These whales are found worldwide in the Arctic. Isolated populations also exist in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, and in Cook Inlet, Alaska. Habitat:- Belugas live in the cold water of almost any depth. During the summer they gather in shallow water at the mouths of rivers. They can survive in freshwater and have been occasionally found in rivers far from the ocean. Diet:- Belugas eat a wide variety of squid, fish, crabs, shrimp, clams, worms, and octopus that they find by echolocation. Their teeth are not made for capturing prey. Behavior and reproduction:- Belugas are some of the most playful whales. They have been seen swimming and playing either alone or with other whales with all kinds of floating objects.
Narwal: Species accounts:-
Physical characteristics:– Narwhals grow to be about 4.2 to 4.7 meters long and weight about 1,000 to 1,600 kilograms. Males are much larger than females. The most outstanding physical feature of the narwhal is its ivory tusk. Tusks can grow to be one-third the length of the body, or 10 meters long, and weight about 10.5 kilograms. Narwhals have two teeth in the upper jaw, and occasionally the right tooth will also grow into a tusk. Geographic range:– Narwhals are limited to the coldest Arctic waters. They are not evenly distributed and are rare along Alaska, Siberia, and parts of Arctic western Canada. Habitat:- Narwhals live in colder water than any other whale. They follow the ice pack, moving north in the summer as it retreats and south in the winter as it grows. Diet:– Narwhals feed along the sea bottom, eating squid and deepwater fishes. Conservation status:- Not enough is known about the population of narwhals to give them a conservation ranking. Threats include being hunted for food and for their tusks. Global warming is of particular concern to the survival of this species because they live in and around the ice pack.