All About the Sperm Whale: The Largest of the Toothed Whales


Photo: Sergio Hanquet via Getty Images

Sperm Whales are some of the most mysterious creatures in the ocean; they are the rarest whales and are difficult to study. They do not sing like other whales, nor do they breach in obvious displays, and their hunting and communication strategies remain a complete mystery. However, we are slowly learning more about these amazing mammals with recent technological advances.

The open ocean holds many secrets, but the most mysterious of all is a giant toothed whale that can dive more than a mile and stay underwater for up to an hour.

The sperm whale (Physeter catodon) lives in oceans throughout the world and preys on giant squid. But it also has another claim to fame: It routinely dives deeper and longer than any other air-breathing mammal.

There's a lot to learn about sperm whales; in this article, we'll take a closer look at this ocean giant.

 

Description and Appearance

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The Sperm whale is primarily dark grey, with white markings on the belly. The head of the Sperm whale is large and distinctive. The lower jaw is very narrow, but it expands into a huge square-shaped lower jaw that bears the whale's enormous teeth.

A mature Sperm whale can grow to be more than 60 feet long, making it one of the largest animals on Earth; only some whales are longer.

The unique shape of the Sperm whale's head is because it has the largest brain of any animal. The large Sperm whale cerebellum makes up about 7 percent of its total brain mass.

In addition, the sperm whale has a sac under its throat that holds a yellowish oily fluid called spermaceti. The fluid helps keep the whale buoyant as it dives deep into the ocean, searching for prey.

Sperm whales have about 26 teeth on each side of their lower jaw that they use to catch squid and fish, as well as giant octopuses. Their upper jaw has two large teeth called "tusks" that reach up to 8 inches in length.

Sperm whales are powerful swimmers who can hit more than 20 mph when pursuing prey. The exact speed limit of the Sperm whale isn't known, but there have been reports of them swimming at up to 23 mph.

Even though they are out there in the ocean, you can get a Gage Beasley's Sperm Whale Stuffed Soft Plush Toy. This small-sized sperm whale plush toy is very soft, cuddly, and cute.

Gage Beasley’s Sperm Whale Stuffed Soft Plush Toy

 

Diet

Sperm whales dine on giant squid as well as other marine life. They can eat more than 1,800 pounds of food a day.

In addition to the usual cephalopods and fish found in the oceans, Sperm whales also dine on octopus and crab-like creatures called "Ammonites."

They can eat prey up to half their body length. This is a fantastic feat considering that the Sperm whale can grow up to 60 feet in length.

They hunt for squid along the ocean floor, using echolocation to track down their prey. Echolocation is a method the Sperm whale uses to create sound waves and assists them in finding food. When diving deep into the ocean after food, sperm whales also use the fluid in their head, known as spermaceti, to keep them buoyant.

 

Reproduction

The mating season for Sperm whales is during the winter months, but they are not considered sexually mature until around age 15. The gestation period of a Sperm whale is about 14 to 16 months.

After mating, a female Sperm whale can give birth to her calf in warmer waters. The young are born tail-first to prevent drowning and weigh about 1 ton at birth.

A newborn Sperm whale will stay with its mother for two years before becoming independent. The lifespan of the Sperm whale is between 50 and 70 years.

 

Distribution

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The Sperm whale is found throughout the world in temperate and tropical waters. The Sperm whale can dive up to 2,000 meters deep in search of food.

They are found near the coasts in the open ocean, but they typically stay at least 1,640 feet below the surface during daylight hours. They can be seen closer to the surface at night.

The Sperm whale is considered an endangered species because there are less than 300,000 globally. Even though they are large, they are tough to hunt because they tend to live alone and quickly outswim a whaling ship.

As with all marine mammals, human activity is the biggest threat to the Sperm whale. People hunt them for their blubber, which can be used for oil.

 

Discovery

The Sperm whale was named after its large sac that holds spermaceti, the fluid that scientific analysis has found is composed of wax and complex oil. This gives the Sperm whale a "sperm" appearance in relation to its head.

It wasn't until 1835 that people knew what this substance was used for because it had never been seen before. People thought it was Sperm and used to make high-quality candles like those we use today.

 

Final Thoughts

The sperm whale might not be the most lovable-looking marine animal, but it is fascinating. It eats more than 1,800 pounds of food a day and can dive deeper than 2,000 feet in its hunt for prey.

And if you love the Sperm whale stuffed soft plush toy Gage Beasley's makes, you're in luck. Not only do they have the Sperm whale, but they also have other animal plush toys like panda bears, tigers, elephants, etc. You can see them by clicking here.

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Cheers!

~GB


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