Narwhals – Tubes

Narwhal Tusks – Tubes

Music; Ambiance Narwhal song

JM: Waiter, I’ll have water without ice please, sensitive teeth, you know. OK. Now imagine you’re a whale with an 8-foot long tusk-like tooth sticking out of your head and you’re swimming in frigid arctic waters. Ouch! I’m Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the background you can hear the sound of narwhals recorded underwater. Now, narwhal tusks have been studied by many biologists, but it was dentist Martin Nweeia who discovered how unique this whale’s tooth actually is. First off, he says that all mammals have tiny tunnels in their teeth call tubules.

MN: All of us know somebody who’s either experienced some form of sensitivity, either with cold or air, but usually these are related to a situation where your gums or bone have receded, exposing those tubules. But typically, in most mammals, those tubules do not want to be exposed. And they’re usually in the underlying bone and not really on the surface. The narwhal is kind of counterintuitive, because not only do these tubules express themselves, they go out of a layer that normally they would not be penetrating through, which covers most of this tooth. And also seem to remain open. So, not only has it defiantly gone through layers of teeth that we normally wouldn’t see, but its also gone through what we would have as an analogy as plaque or bacteria on our teeth and still they remain open. When we look at the surface, we’ve estimated that over an eight-foot section of tusk, which you’d find in a normal adult, that there would be approximately ten million of these tubules that would be exposed. And, indeed, when all of us looked at it, we were just perplexed. Why on earth would, first of all, an animal want this, but, second of all, an animal in arctic water? I mean, that’s the last place you would find something like this.

JM: Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation and Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.

Narwhals - Tubes

Why would an animal swimming in frigid waters have an 8-foot long sensitive tooth?
Air Date:08/23/2016
Scientist:
Transcript:

Narwhal Tusks - Tubes

Music; Ambiance Narwhal song

JM: Waiter, I'll have water without ice please, sensitive teeth, you know. OK. Now imagine you're a whale with an 8-foot long tusk-like tooth sticking out of your head and you're swimming in frigid arctic waters. Ouch! I'm Jim Metzner and this is the Pulse of the Planet. In the background you can hear the sound of narwhals recorded underwater. Now, narwhal tusks have been studied by many biologists, but it was dentist Martin Nweeia who discovered how unique this whale's tooth actually is. First off, he says that all mammals have tiny tunnels in their teeth call tubules.

MN: All of us know somebody who's either experienced some form of sensitivity, either with cold or air, but usually these are related to a situation where your gums or bone have receded, exposing those tubules. But typically, in most mammals, those tubules do not want to be exposed. And they're usually in the underlying bone and not really on the surface. The narwhal is kind of counterintuitive, because not only do these tubules express themselves, they go out of a layer that normally they would not be penetrating through, which covers most of this tooth. And also seem to remain open. So, not only has it defiantly gone through layers of teeth that we normally wouldn't see, but its also gone through what we would have as an analogy as plaque or bacteria on our teeth and still they remain open. When we look at the surface, we've estimated that over an eight-foot section of tusk, which you'd find in a normal adult, that there would be approximately ten million of these tubules that would be exposed. And, indeed, when all of us looked at it, we were just perplexed. Why on earth would, first of all, an animal want this, but, second of all, an animal in arctic water? I mean, that's the last place you would find something like this.

JM: Pulse of the Planet is made possible in part by the National Science Foundation and Virginia Tech, inventing the future through a hands-on approach to education and research.