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30 Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: Feeding, Hunting, Fun Facts

In our last article on Sperm Whale facts we learned about how the creature looks, how it behaves, where it lives etc. We couldn’t (or rather, we didn’t) speak about the animal’s feeding habits and how it navigates in the open oceans. In this article on fascinating Sperm Whale facts, we are going to touch through those facts and at the end, provide some of the most fascinating fun facts about the majestic beast. So, let’s get started…

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 1-5 | Feeding Habits

1. Sperm Whales’ favorite food is squid. They feed on several species of squids that include both the Giant Squid and the Colossal Squid. However, medium-sized squids are the ones that commonly get hunted.

2. Octopuses also become lunch or dinner of Sperm Whales and so do several species of fish including the Demersal Rays.

3. Sperm Whales have the habit of sometimes taking toothfish and sablefish from long lines. The reason why these beasts go after long line fishing operations is that they get easy access to food and can ditch the need for hunting.

4. Sperm Whales are also known to feed on Megamouth Shark. It is a rare shark species that lives in deep-sea and was discovered in the 1970s.

5. The squid beaks that get lodged into the intestines of Sperm Whales often lead to production of ambergris (analogous to pearl production). Sperm Whales usually vomit out such beaks but at times, they may move further down the guts and get stuck in intestines. That’s when a lubricant-like substance is excreted by the intestines to cover up the beak so that it can easily pass out while defecation.

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 6-10 | Hunting and Echolocation

6. Sperm Whales have quite some appetite. They need slightly over 900 kilograms of food in a single day. For this they need to hunt. They are very good hunters.

7. For hunting, they dive deep into the sea or ocean. They will usually dive to the depths of 300 meters to 1,200 meters. However, they can also dive as deep as 2 kilometers in search of food.

8. In such great depths, it is not possible to see. This is the reason why they make use of echolocation for finding prey. They will release a series of sounds called clicks that will allow them to focus on their prey.

9. Sperm Whales are toothed whales. This means they use their teeth to grab and eat the prey. The bottom jaw is where pointed long teeth are visible. The lower jaw is around 18 centimeters to 20 centimeters long.

10. The upper jaw has sockets. The teeth on the lower jaw fit into those sockets. Well, that doesn’t mean that upper jaw of a Sperm Whale doesn’t have any teeth. They have teeth in upper jaw but those teeth never grow out.

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 11-15 | Hunting and Threats

11. It is easy to hunt big prey but when the Sperm Whales hunt small fish, a group of Sperm Whales (called a Pod) will work together. They will surround feeder fish from all sides.

12. This move will allow the Sperm Whales to force the feeder fish into making what is known as bait balls. Bait balls are basically ball-like clumps formed by small fish as a defensive mechanism. This provides a greater chance of survival for the fish towards the center.

13. While Sperm Whales are really big and they are good hunters, they are also being preyed upon. This means, they do have threats. Of all natural threats, the Killer Whale (also known as the Orca Whale) pose the greatest threat.

14. Even False Killer Whales and Pilot Whales are known for hunting Sperm Whales.

15. Orcas are known for hunting Sperm Whale calves and even females that are relatively smaller than the male Sperm Whales.

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 16-20 | Threats

16. When Nursery groups (all female Pods) sense threat, they adopt a defensive stance known as the ‘marguerite formation’. It is a type of formation where the vulnerable pod members (such as calves) are place in the middle and rest of the pod members circle the vulnerable ones with tail facing outwards.

17. Apart from their natural habitat threats, Sperm Whales are also threatened by humans. The human threat reached its highest during the 1700s after large-scale whaling started in 1712. Nearly 236,000 Sperm Whales are killed during 1700s alone!

18. The reasons why the Sperm Whales were hunted were many. Apart from oil, blubber and food, the primary reasons for hunting Sperm Whales were Spermaceti and Ambergris.

19. Spermaceti allowed creation of smokeless candles and hence, its demand was high. Also, lighthouses, streetlights and lanterns were fueled by Spermaceti. However by 1800s, the Spermaceti became scarce because of overhunting and its price doubled, causing chaos. Fortunately in 1846, kerosene-based lamp fuel came in, eradicating Sperm Whale trading.

20. Ambergris was another substance that was on high demand in perfume industry. It was used as a fixative in perfume manufacturing. However, it was rare and hence, led to search of alternatives.

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 21-25 | Sperm Whale Fun Facts

21. While Orcas or Killer Whales are known for attacking and eating Sperm Whales, the opposite is also true. Even adult male Sperm Whales are known for attacking Killer Whales but not for eating the Orcas but only to compete for food.

22. Though there are no records, scientists believe that the Sperm Whales and Giant Squids (even Colossal Squids) are eternal enemies. This notion comes from the Giant Squid sucker cups scars observed on the skin of a Sperm Whale.

23. Sperm Whales usually swim at a speed of 5 kilometers to 15 kilometers an hour. However, when needed, they can ramp up their swimming speed to 35 to 45 kilometers per hour. They can maintain such speed for nearly an hour.

24. Sperm Whales usually live up to 70 years. Males in particular usually do not attain their full size until they reach the age of 50 years.

25. Sperm Whales do not generally attack people and usually retreat when they see a ship. However, there are records in history which tell about Sperm Whales attacking boats. According to some scientists, that kind of aggression towards humans comes previous memories of large-scale whaling and that these beasts attack to take revenge. Others say that such attacks are purely accidental.

Did you know that over 1,600 Sperm Whales were examined from all across the world? The examiners tested the mitochondrial DNA that comes only from the mother. It turns out that all of today’s Sperm Whales came from a single female that used to live tens of thousands of years ago. The researches named that female as Eve!

Fascinating Sperm Whale Facts: 26-30 | Sperm Whale Fun Facts

Did you know that the loudest sound produced by a Sperm Whale ever was recorded off Northern Norway? A single click reached 235 (dB re 1 μ Pa) above water surface. That’s the sound pressure that a Saturn V rocket creates at a distance of 1 meter. This is the reason why it is hypothesized that Sperm Whales can stun or kill their prey using sound!

26. The heart of a Sperm Whale can weigh up to 125 kilograms. That’s nearly the weight to two average adult human males!

27. In the whole world, Sperm Whales have biggest head. They also have the biggest brain (among alive or extinct animals) on Earth. They are the largest of the toothed whales in whole world and they are also the largest toothed predators in whole world.

28. The flukes or tail lobes of Sperm Whales are really thick and large. Proportionately speaking, they have the largest flukes among all cetaceans. These flukes are really flexible. Sperm Whales lift their flukes out of water when they start their feeding dive.

29. Sperm Whales are known for fertilizing the ocean. They defecate and the material then floats up to the water surface where the defecated material is dispersed. The dispersed material is then consumed by phytoplankton.

30. Did you know that a beached Sperm Whale corpse can violently erupt? This happens because after a whale dies, the decomposition of internal organs lead to formation of gases that keep building up and eventually rip through flesh in a powerful burst.

Did you know that the novel Moby Dick is actually based on two real-life Sperm Whales? One of those two was responsible for ramming and sinking the ship called Essex and the other one was an albino adult male that was named as Mocha Dick.

That completes our list of fascinating Sperm Whale facts and Sperm Whale fun facts. In case we have missed something important or you just want to add something more to the list, feel free to drop comments.

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5