Sperm Whale

ANIMAL:
Sperm Whale Physeter macrocephalus

Type of Animal:
Toothed Whale

Habitat:
Deep oceans, deeper offshore waters, deep open waters, continental shelves/shelf edges, canyons, areas closer to shore w/ small continental shelves w/ drops of 1,020-3,020 ft, coastal areas, island areas w/ deep canyons/very narrow continental shelves, shallow bays

Location(s):
Oceans & seas worldwide

Appearance:
Largest toothed whale, bulls much larger than cows, huge block-shaped head, S-shaped blowhole, thick triangular flukes, narrow underslung lower jaw, dark blue-gray to dark gray to brownish color, thickset w/ small paddle-like flippers, series of rounded humps in back, small low thick dorsal fins

Food/Diet:
Squid, skates, rays, sharks, fish, octopus, cuttlefish, bioluminescent pyrosomes

Status in Wild:
Threatened

Conservation:
Protected by International Whaling Commission moratorium as well as local protections. Monitoring of wild populations.

Lifestyle:
Cows & offspring found in pods of 15-50 whales, occasionally accompanied by a bull. Bulls found in pods of 2-15 whales. Many large bulls solitary.

Additional Info:

Called:
Male: Bull
Female: Cow
Young: Calf
Group: Pod
 
Weight:
Male: 41 tons
Female: 14 tons
Young: 6 tons

Gestation:
14.5-16.5 months 

Life Span:
70-80 years

Body Length:
Male: 52 ft
Female: 36 ft
Young: 18 ft

Tail Width:
Male: 13 ft
Female: 11 ft

Orcas/killer whales & large sharks prey on juveniles & adult cows as well as younger bulls. False Killer Whales prey on calves. Large bulls occasionally preyed on by orcas.
 
Threatened due to climate change, noise pollution, entanglement in fishing gear, collisions w/ ships, hunting, pollution, & oil/gas exploration.
 
Cows sexually mature at 7 years old & bulls at 10-12 years old, though physical maturity isn’t reached until later.
 
Many sperm whales bear scars from giant squid defending themselves.
 
Sperm oil from spermaceti was prized from late 1700s-mid 1800s for bright odorless flame for lamps & as lubricant.

Fun Fact(s):
Largest brains of any animal ever, weighing around 17 lbs.
 
Can eat 3 percent of body weight daily.
 
While not aggressive, they can be quite dangerous & defend themselves when provoked & can easily topple boats.
 
Their heads cover 1/3-1/4 of body length & 1/3 of weight.
 
They have some of the most powerful sonar of any animal.
 
They can hold their breath in deep water for up to 2 hours & dive more than 7,000 ft deep.
 
These whales named for spermaceti organ filling much of head containing waxy spermaceti.
 
Herman Melville’s 1851 novel Moby Dick partially based on real albino sperm whale named Mocha Dick. Unlike the novel, sperm whales in real life don’t eat humans.
 
Their clicks are so loud that they can kill humans in vicinity by unintentionally blowing out human eardrums & vibrating human bodies to death.

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