Sperm whales have the largest brain of every animal ever to have lived on the earth. Their heads are also filled with a mysterious substance.
- Sperm whales are huge! They weigh 35 to 45 tons and are 49 to 59 feet in length.
- Their large, bulky heads make them easy to recognize.
- Spermaceti, an oily substance that hardens to wax when cold, fills the whales’ heads.
- Scientists still aren’t sure what the substance is for, but they think it might help stabilize sperm whales, allowing them to dive and return to the surface.
- Sperm whales dive more than 3,000 feet into the sea in search of squid, staying under water for 90 minutes or longer. They eat one ton of food every day!
- Female sperm whales live in tropic and sub-tropic waters with 15 to 20 other females and their babies (pods). They work together to care for their calves.
- Sperm whales use clicking sounds to communicate with each other and find prey (echolocation).
- Male sperm whales live further north, alone or in groups, coming south only to breed.
- During the 1800s and 1900s, sperm whales were hunted almost to extinction. They were valuable for their oil, as well as a substance used to make perfume.
- Spermaceti: an oily substance produced in a sperm whale’s head
- Squid: an animal similar to an octopus
Questions and Answers
Question: Do people still hunt sperm whales?
Answer: Whale hunting is illegal or regulated in most countries. Two well-known books, Moby Dick by Herman Melville and Seabird by Holling C. Holling share a look at 19th century whale hunting.
Watch a video of sperm whales diving.