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 this animal.
Now, let’s get started…
Sperm Whale Facts 1-10
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 its full body length.
2. Talking of the large head, did you know that Sperm Whales have the largest brain in the whole animal kingdom? Yes, their brain weighs an amazing 17 pounds. In comparison, the human brain weighs a meager 3 pounds.
3. Did you know that our 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.
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 called 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 11-20
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. Alternatively, 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 a 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 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.
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 an adult or mature males. Immature males, when they 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 21-30
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.
26. Except for the 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 the ‘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.
Sperm Whale Facts 31-40
31. 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.
32. Octopuses also become lunch or dinner of Sperm Whales and so do several species of fish including the Demersal Rays.
33. 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.
34. 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.
35. 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.
36. 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.
37. 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.
38. 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.
39. 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.
40. The upper jaw has sockets. The teeth on the lower jaw fit into those sockets. Well, that doesn’t mean that the upper jaw of a Sperm Whale doesn’t have any teeth. They have teeth in the upper jaw but those teeth never grow out.
Sperm Whale Facts 41-50
41. 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.
42. 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.
43. 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.
44. Even False Killer Whales and Pilot Whales are known for hunting Sperm Whales.
45. Orcas are known for hunting Sperm Whale calves and even females that are relatively smaller than the male Sperm Whales.
46. 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 placed in the middle and the rest of the pod members circle the vulnerable ones with tail facing outwards.
47. 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 were killed during the 1700s alone!
48. 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.
49. Spermaceti allowed creation of smokeless candles, and hence, its demand was high. Also, lighthouses, streetlights and lanterns were fueled by Spermaceti. However by the 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.
50. Ambergris was another substance that was in high demand in the perfume industry. It was used as a fixative in perfume manufacturing. However, it was rare and hence, led to search of alternatives.
Sperm Whale Facts 51-60
51. 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.
52. 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.
53. 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.
54. 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.
55. 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 from 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?
Did You Know? 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 researchers named that female as Eve!
Did You Know?
Did You Know? 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 the 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!
56. The heart of a Sperm Whale can weigh up to 125 kilograms. That’s nearly the weight to two average adult human males!
57. In the whole world, Sperm Whales have the biggest head. They also have the biggest brain (among alive or extinct animals) on Earth. They are the largest of the toothed whales in the whole world and they are also the largest toothed predators in the whole world.
58. 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.
59. 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.
60. Did you know that a beached Sperm Whale corpse can violently erupt? This happens because after a whale dies, the decomposition of internal organs leads to the formation of gases that keep building up and eventually rip through flesh in a powerful burst.
Did You Know?
Did you know? The novel Moby Dick is 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.