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Sperm Whale Facts

Sperm whales are the largest known toothed whales, and have a wide head and relatively narrow lower jaw. 

There are white spots on its tail. It is brownish blue in color. 

It has rounded-humps on its back and paddle-like flippers along its sides.

Sperm Whale Facts for Kids

  • Sperm whales can grow to 60 feet long. 
  • It weighs between 35 tons and 45 tons.
  • Male sperm whales are generally larger than females
  • They can swim at up to 23 mph.
  • Their name derives from the spermaceti located within their heads. 
  • The sperm whale can spend up to 90 minutes underwater before it needs to breathe again.

What Do Sperm Whales Look Like

The sperm whale is grayish-blue or brown with white patches mostly on the belly. They have paddle-like flippers and several rounded bumps on their back. The males grow to a maximum of about 62 ft and the females about 39 ft. 

Spear whales have evolved the most of all toothed whale species. Regardless of body size, its head accounts for around one-third of its total length.

Generally, the lower jaw has about 36-50 conical teeth. The upper jaw contains remnant teeth that are erupting.

They have a well-developed nose and upper lip, which contains fluid-filled spermaceti. From this fluid, sperm oil and spermaceti are often used for lighting and lubrication. This sperm whale organ can store up to 2,000 liters (530 gallons).

Mature males are typically 30-50% longer and 3 times bigger than females, but the size is similar at birth.

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Facts for Kids

How do sperm whales hunt?

Sperm whales typically consume over 900 kg of food per day. While hunting, they can dive as deep as two kilometers (1.2 miles) to find their prey (preferably giant squid). A typical dives last about 60 minutes.

By using echolocation, sperm whales generate the world’s loudest animal sounds.

On a bottom jaw, sperm whales have teeth 18 to 20 cm long, molded into sockets along the underside of the palate. There is no growth of upper teeth in an adult sperm whale.

Science says giant squid and sperm whales are natural enemies. They have never been seen in a battle but the whales have frequently been found with circular battle scars believed to be caused primarily by giant squid suckers. That’s just amazing

They also eat many kinds of fish such as skate, squid, octopus, fish, and crustaceans are also tasty treats, as are some deep-dwelling sharks.

They can consume between 3-5% of their body weight each day.

What’s life like for a sperm whale?

Sperm whales spend much of their lives hunting in the deep. They can dive to depths of up to 3 km and hold their breath for up to 90 minutes.

In spite of their diving prowess, sperm whales’ social structures are not totally unlike ours. 

Young males of a species tend to hang out together until around the age of 30, when they go on their respective separate ways. 

Females prefer to spend their time together and form ‘nursery schools’ to take care of the young and protect them from curious predatory sharks or orcas.

Where do sperm whales live?

You can find them in the world’s oceans, preferring deep water. 

However, Kaikoura off New Zealand’s South Island is an exception. 

There are also sperm whales living near the Azores and Galapagos, though their overall numbers are a fraction of what they once were because of centuries of whaling.

What is a Sperm Whale Pod?

Sperm whale pods may consist of between 15 and 20 animals. 

Females form Pods with their young, while males roam alone or join groups. 

Females and calves remain year-round in the warm tropical waters and are cared for communally. 

The males generally migrate north, often alone or in groups, and then head toward the equator to eventually breed.

Do Sperm Whales Sleep

Sperm whale pods have been known to sleep for small periods, assuming an upright position with their heads slightly below the water surface. 

An article published in Current Biology explains whales fall asleep on both sides of the brain. 

Some whales appear to go to sleep between 6 p.m. and midnight.

How Long Can Sperm Whales Hold Their Breath

A sperm whale’s driving ability is legendary. Rather than just going to the surface, they dive deep to catch their food.

They can hold their breath for 90 minutes without breathing. It is impressive they can hold their breath for that long.

Their respiratory system is very effective, and they rely heavily on it. First, whales exhale, clearing their lungs of stale air. We, however, breathe in first, then exhale, leaving the stale air in our own lungs.

Our bodies only use 5% of oxygen per breath. 

Compared to this, whales can absorb about 90% of their oxygen. Whales acquire much more oxygen than humans in a typical single breath.

Furthermore, they tend to reduce their heart rate as well. 

Even humans can do this when they dive. It is even slower in marine mammals. Studies have found that diving Weddell seals only have a four-beat heart rate when diving.

Do you know your resting heart-rate

What are Baby Sperm Whales Called

Baby Sperm Whale is called a calf

Babies Sperm Whales are huge at birth, over 13 feet long.

Groups of mothers share the responsibility of protecting calves at the surface because calves cannot perform deep, long dives like their mothers do. 

A mother might dive while another stays with her young above the surface.

Sperm Whaling

During the 19th century, whalers severely targeted them, resulting in a drastic decline in population. The sperm whales were hunted using rowboats and hand-thrown whale harpoons, but sometimes they successfully battled back.

Sperm Whales Brain

They have the world’s largest brain, five times heavier than that of humans.

Their brain is the largest known from any extant or modern animal, weighing on average 7 kilograms. Larger brains do, however, not equate to intelligence alone. A dolphin’s brain is larger than a human’s. 

Its encephalization quotient is lower than that of other whale and dolphin species, comparable to anthropoid apes, and much lower than that of humans. In absolute comparison, the cerebrum of a sperm whale is the largest in all mammals. Despite having a small olfactory system, it exhibits good hearing. Despite this, the sperm whale’s sense of taste is poor.

Sperm Whale Predators

In the wild, these whales have no real predators. Young or injured whales can be hunted by killer whales or orcas.

They don’t face a lot of natural threats, but a lot of threats come from us humans. Among them are accidental entanglement in fishing gear, vessel collisions; marine debris; and even pollution from oil refinery or tanker spills. 

Likewise, climate change is considered a threat to these creatures.

Learn More

Its full scientific name is Physeter macrocephalus, which derived from an ancient Greek word that means blowhole.

The Pygmy sperm whale lives off the western coast of the United States, not to mention Hawaii and the Pacific Northwest.