Sperm Whale

sperm-300x200The sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) is a toothed whale and is part of thecetacean species, which also include dolphins and porpoises. The sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and can grow to be as long as 67 ft. They also have thelargest brain out of any animal known to exist. The name sperm whale comes from thespermaceti organ which is located in its head.
The organ produces a white waxy substance that was originally mistaken for sperm by early whalers. While the role spermaceti plays is still not fully understood, in the past it was used by commercial companies to make various oils and products such as(transmission fluid, motor oil additives, pharmaceuticals and detergents) during the whaling era.

Physical Characteristics
When fully matured the sperm whale will typically grow to be around 50 – 60 ft long and weigh around 35 – 45 tons. When both the female and male are mature the male whale usually out measures the female by 30% – 50% in terms of length and weighs significantly more. Sperm whales are usually dark gray or black, but can occasionally be light grey as well. In comparison to other whales the sperm whale has a very unique body among the species and is unlikely to be confused with any other species of whale.
It has a block shaped head which can measure up to 1/3 of the whales overall size and length. Sperm whales don’t have a dorsal fin, but instead have a small hump on it’s back.

Sperm whales use echolocation to hunt for food and navigate the ocean. Adult sperm whales can eat up to a ton of food per day or about 3% of its body weight. A standard diet for sperm whales usually consists of medium to large squid, octopus and fish.  Scars on the whale’s head and face appear to be indicative of its attacks on large squid which try to avoid being consumed by the whale by latching on to the whale’s head. Sperm whales are also believed to prey on the mega mouth shark. One study found 3 sperm whales appearing to be attacking a mega mouth shark when looking for food.

Sperm whales can be found swimming through all of the earths major oceans. Female whales and calves typically remain in tropical climates throughout the year while males will make trips to colder temperature higher latitude locations during certain times of the year and back to warmer tropical climates during mating season. Although males are primarily solitary mammals they may on occasion form loose bonds with other male whales. Males have been known to wander the oceans throughout their entire lives and some may even end up traveling the entire world during their 70 year lifespan.

Social Structure
Adult male whales typically live solitary lives although they may form loosely connected bonds with other males of the same size and age. Females on the other end tend to stay in pods of about a dozen or so other whales, usually between 10 – 20 whales.Pods consist of young baby whales and other females. Males whales will stay in their maternal pods until they reach the ages of 5 – 20 at which they separate and go off on their own.

The sperm whale is a marine mammal and the female whale feeds its young by producing milk from her mammary glands which it shoots through the water and into the baby’s mouth. The gestation period usually lasts for 14 – 16 months. Although the female may stop lactating between 1 & 1/2 – 4 years the baby whale may still suckle until it reaches 12 years although it is unlikely that the baby whale will continue suckling for that long. Baby whales also aren’t tied down to feeding strictly from its biological mother and may feed from other females in the group. In terms of lifespan sperm whales can live for more than 70 years.