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30 Sperm Whale Facts: Description, Behavior, Reproduction, Habitat

Sperm Whale is one of the most amazing creatures we have on our planet. This particular animal holds several records (apart from being the largest creature on Earth – the crown that goes to Blue Whale) that might come as a serious shock to anyone. So, let us learn some really interesting Sperm Whale facts that we think you might like and even need for your school project. Let’s begin…

Sperm Whale Classification

Before we start with the list of Sperm Whale facts, let us quickly take a look at the scientific classification of animal.

SpeciesPhyseter macrocephalus

Now, let’s get started…

Sperm Whale Facts: 1-5 | Description

1. Wondering how to figure out which whale is Sperm Whale? Look at the head. It has a really large head and its forehead is rounded. However, the overall head is a bit squared. In fact, its head makes up nearly 1/3rd of it full body length.

2. Talking of the large head, did you know that Sperm Whales have the largest brain in whole of animal kingdom? Yes, their brain weighs an amazing 17 pounds. In comparison, human brain weighs a meager 3 pounds.

3. Did you know that our brain (human brain) occupies just 2% of our body weight? Compared to this, the brain of a Sperm Whale occupies only 0.2% of its body weight. So, whose weight is really big? Think, think!

4. The Sperm Whale is a type of a Cetacean whale species. Other cetaceans include dolphins, other whales (actually all whales), porpoises etc. Did you know that some cetaceans are toothed while others are not? Sperm Whales are toothed cetaceans. This means they have teeth. Not all whales have teeth (such as the Blue Whale).

5. Though not as big as Blue Whales, the Sperm Whales are pretty large. The males are anywhere between 11 meters to 20 meters in length. The females on the other hand are a little smaller with a size of anywhere between 8.2 meters to 17 meters.

Sperm Whale Facts: 6-10 | Description

6. Sperm Whales are also quite heavy. Adult Sperm Whales can weigh anywhere between 25 tonnes to 45 tonnes.

7. What about the babies? The Sperm Whale babies are call calves (plural). A calf at birth can be as big as 4 meters in length and can be as heavy as up to 500 kilograms.

8. All cetaceans are known for having a blowhole. Sperm Whales are no different. They too have one. However, instead of being located on the top of the head, the blowhole of a Sperm Whale is located to the left of its head.

9. It is this unique location of the blowhole that allows quick identification of Sperm Whale pretty easy even from a distance. They will have a low and bushy spout that is forward projecting and slightly towards the left.

10. As far as a Sperm Whale’s body is concerned, towards the tail on the body, a large hump is visible on the back. That hump is then followed by a series of smaller bumps.

Sperm Whale Facts: 11-15 | Description

11. The skin of a Sperm Whale is bluish-black or dark brown. The skin is usually scratched and splotched. People say that the skin’s texture is quite like plum stone.

12. There is a large cavity in the head of a Sperm Whale. This cavity is actually an organ known as the spermaceti organ. It remains filled with a waxy liquid. This liquid is known as spermaceti oil.

13. Actual purpose of this spermaceti oil is not known. There are several theories. One of the theories is that it helps the whale to dive in or rise to the surface. It is said that the whale sucks in the water from its blowhole, the water cools down the waxy substance, making its shrink and increase in density. This allows the whale to dive in.

14. Alternately, it may happen that when the whale sucks in water from its blowhole the water makes the spermaceti oil expand and decrease in density and thus allowing the whale to rise up to the surface.

15. Other theories suggest that it is shock absorbing substance meant for protecting the brain when the males engage in head-butting during the mating seasons. Yet another theory states that the oil is designed to shape the long-distance vocalizations for the Sperm Whales.

Early whalers who spotted this waxy substance, they thought that it was some kind of reproductive substance and hence, named it as ‘Spermaceti’. Spermaceti is actually a Latin word which means ‘whale seed’. This is from where the name ‘Sperm Whale’ has been derived.

Sperm Whale Facts: 16-20 | Behavior

16. As far as the behavior of the Sperm Whales is considered, they are found either in ‘bachelor groups’ or in ‘nursery’. A ‘nursery’ is a group of adult females and several immature females and immature males.

17. A ‘bachelor group’ is a adult or mature males. Immature males, when the grow mature, will leave the ‘nursery’ and will get in a ‘bachelor group’. An all-male bachelor group will usually contain mails of the age 7 years to 27 years.

18. Males that are older will either live in other small groups or just as single individuals. ‘Bachelor group’ males or older males will go to a nursery during the breeding season. Whether a nursery or a bachelor group, the number of individuals in the group stay between 10 and 15.

19. Sperm Whales make use of echolocation for hunting prey in dark depths of oceans. They usually emit very powerful sounds from their heads during hunting and foraging. These sounds are too strong and even stun and kill prey such as octopuses, squids and various fish that these whales eat.

20. Sperm Whales are excellent divers. They can dive all the way down to 3,000 meters. That’s nearly 2 miles beneath the ocean surface. They can stay at such depths for nearly 2 hours. That’s the deepest dive by any mammal species on this planet.

Sperm Whale Facts: 21-25 | Reproduction

21. Male Sperm Whales reach sexual maturity when they reach the age of 10 years. However, they never start mating until they reach the age of 19 years and until they attain a length of 13 meters.

22. Females on the other hand reach their sexual maturity when they are 7 years old. Some females can attain maturity a little later. So usually, the sexual maturity age range for females is 7 to 11 years. They also need to attain a length of around 9 meters before they mate.

23. During mating seasons, males contest for the mating rights. They get involved in what is called head-butting. The winner gets to mate with multiple females. Once the males mate, they don’t stay with females. They will just leave.

24. A pregnant female will have a gestation period of around 16 months. After this, a single female will give birth to a single calf. The calf is born anywhere between July and November. The calf will live on mother’s milk for around 2 years.

25. A female will usually mate once in 4 years or more. The females mate till the age of 40 and after that they stop mating.

Sperm Whale Facts: 26-30 | Range, Habitat, Status

26. Except for high Arctic, Sperm Whales are found in every ocean in this world. That’s their range.

27. When it comes to habitat, Sperm Whales are usually found in tropical waters to sub-polar waters. They usually stay in offshore areas in open oceans.

28. Sperm Whales are also found closer to lands but the condition is that the water there should be more than 200 meters deep.

29. Sperm Whales are considered to be ‘vulnerable’ on IUCN’s Red List. This means that they can easily be pushed into ‘endangered’ list. In case you didn’t know, the IUCN Red List lists animals in these categories:

  • NE: Not Evaluated.
  • DD: Data Deficient.
  • LC: Least Concern.
  • NT: Near Threatened.
  • VU: Vulnerable.
  • EN: Endangered.
  • CR: Critically Endangered.
  • EW: Extinct in the Wild.
  • EX: Extinct.

30. As of today, it is estimated that there are around 200,000 Sperm Whales roaming all around in the oceans of this world.

This completes our list of 30 interesting Sperm Whale facts. We are not done yet. We will do one more article on Sperm Whales to cover the topics like hunting habits, eating habits, threats and some fun facts. Until then, happy reading!

Sources: 1, 2, 3