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Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale Facts

Size Up to 59 ft (18 m)
Speed Up to 19 mph (30 km/h)
Weight Up to 55 tons
Lifespan 50-70 years
Food Squids, octopuses, sharks
Predators Sharks, orcas (young, old or inujured sperm whales)
Habitat North Pacific
Order Whales
Suborder Toothed whales
Family Physeteroidea
Scientific name Physeter macrocephalus
Characteristics Huge square-shaped head

Main Characteristics

The sperm whale is a large whale in the toothed whale family.

Sperm Whale Photo: Shane Gross/Shutterstock


Sperm Whales Are Always Hungry

Every day, the sperm whale needs an amount of food which matches about 3% of its body weight. At a weight of 55 tons this is more than 1.5 tons of food per day. Enjoy your meal!


Anatomy and Appearance

Sperm Whale Head

One third of the sperm whale’s entire length is taken up by the huge square-shaped head.

What's Inside the Head of a Sperm Whale?

There is a large organ inside the head of the sperm whale, which is called the spermaceti organ. It is filled with spermaceti, a pale, waxy substance, which is required for deep diving.

The Sperm Whale Has the Heaviest Brain

In addition to the spermaceti organ, the head of the sperm whale also contains the brain. It weighs up to 21 lb (9.5 kg). Thus, of all mammals, the sperm whale has the heaviest brain.

The Sperm Whale Has the Biggest Gullet

Of all whales, the sperm whale has the biggest gullet. It even can swallow a human whole.

The Sperm Whale Is the Largest Toothed Whale

Although it only has 18-28 teeth, the sperm whale is the biggest toothed whale (dolphins have up to 200 teeth).


Sperm Whale Photo: Swildestanimal/Shutterstock

Senses and Abilities

The Sperm Whale Is the Deepest Diver

Together with the Cuvier's beaked whale and the southern elephant seal the sperm whale is one of the mammals that holds the record in deep diving. In 1991, the abilities of the sperm whale already caused a stir:

Near the Caribbean island of Dominica, scientists could prove that sperm whales dive up to 6,561 feet (2,000 meters) deep. Yet, the sperm whale can probably dive even deeper: In 1969, whale hunters killed a sperm whale 99.4 miles (160 km) south of Durban (South Africa) and they found sharks in its stomach.

Generally, this is not really spectacular, but it was a specific shark species that exclusively lives near the bottom of the ocean. Within a radius of 30-40 miles (48-64 km), the ocean is deeper than 10,475 feet (3,193 meters) in this area. Therefore it is reckoned that sperm whales can dive deeper than 9,842 feet (3,000 meters).

The Sperm Whale Is One of the Longest Divers

The sperm whale can hold its breath like a champion. After the Cuvier's beaked whale the sperm whale is the second-longest diver. It can stay under water and dive for 1 hour and 52 minutes without breathing.

Sperm Whale Photo: wildestanimal/Shutterstock


Sperm Whales Produce a Variety of Sounds

Sperm whales produce clicking noises to navigate through the ocean. This works quite similar to the echolocation of a bat. You can also hear the whales groan, whistle, chirp, trill, squeak, yelp and pant. Sperm whales can be heard from miles away under water.


Sperm Whales Cruising Speed

Normally, the sperm whale swims through the ocean at a speed of about 6 mph (10 km/h). Yet, it can also "sprint" and reach speeds of up to 19 mph (30 km/h).

Sperm Whale Photo: Kjersti Joergensen/Shutterstock


Normally, male and female sperm whales live in separate groups. They meet again during the mating season. Sperm whale calves are breast-fed for one to two years and protected by the older animals. For this purpose they regroup in a formation resembling the blossom of a marguerite (the calf in the middle, protected by the older sperm whales).

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