Skip to main content

Sperm Whale

It just dawned on me that I have not yet written a single post about a cetacean! What have I been thinking?! That's going to change, right here, right now. I present Moby Dick himself... the Sperm Whale. Not only is the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) one of the most well known of all ocean mammals, but they are very topical creatures as well. 1,665 of these guys live in the Gulf of Mexico, which, as everyone on the planet should probably know, is undergoing a major environmental crisis with the BP oil spill. As top tier predators in the region, Sperm Whales can be hugely affected by the oil. Not only can the spill make them sick directly, but it also affects their prey, which then makes its way back to the whale during consumption. This past week a young whale was found dead 70 miles from the spill, and scientists are looking into cause of death. Sperm Whales have also hit the news this past week due to a new study that shows that their excrement actually removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Interesting creatures indeed!

Sperm Whales live in oceans all around the world. They are huge. They are the largest of all toothed whales (Odontocetes) and males can grow 60 feet long and weigh 45 tons. They have the greatest degree of sexual dimorphism of any cetacean. Females only reach about 35ft and weigh 11-14tons. The head of a Sperm Whale makes up about a third of their overall body length, and posesses the largest brain of any animal.. though in relation to overall body size it isn't that large. The head is also filled with an oily substance called spermaceti. It is still unclear as to what this substance is for, but speculations are that it helps manage buoyancy.
Image from Monterey Bay Aquarium

Sperm Whales can hold their breaths for 90 minutes and dive down 3,200 feet. The whales have several interesting adaptations that allow them to handle the pressure changes while diving. Blood gets directed to only the most vital organs, their heart rate slows considerably, and they are able to partially collapse their rib cages. In between dives the whales rest at the surface and breathe through their blow hole, which is unique in whales in that it is located asymmetrically on the tip of the head. They spout between 3 and 7 times a minute, with the water streams reaching up to 50 feet in the air.

The mortal enemy of all Sperm Whales (that sounds so dramatic!) is the Giant Squid. Whales have been found with scars and marks chronicling their fights with the large cephalopods, which make up a nice chunk of the whales' overall diet. They also consume sharks, rays and other fish. The whales hunt with echolocation, sending out sets of creaks that bounce back to the whale once they hit another object. Sperm Whales have very few predators, man being the most prominent. They were hunted heavily in the 18th and 19th centuries for their ambergris, spermaceti, and blubber. Despite that the population is still fairly numerous. Other predators include sharks (on whale calves), and Killer Whales. IUCN lists the Sperm Whale as a vulnerable species.


Popular posts from this blog

Bornean Orangutan

The Bornean Orangutan is one of two extant Orangutan species in the world. It is the third largest primate (after Gorillas) and is the largest primarily tree-dwelling animal in the world. Males are substantially larger than females, and average at around 165lbs. Bornean Orangutans are largely solitary. A handful might live within a small range but they will seldom interact with one another. Males and females only meet up to breed, which happens only once every several years. A young Orangutan will stay with it's mother for about five years, and the females tend to go about eight years between births. That is the longest interim period of any animal! Sadly, the Bornean Orangutans are in a lot of trouble. They need large forests in order to thrive, and deforestation and habitat degradation has left many homeless. They are also hunted for meat and for traditional medicines. Conservation areas are being established to help these guys in the wild, and it is believed that there are a


For anyone who was counting, yesterday was our birthday-- four years! Four years filled with animals from A to Z, more than 1,100 of them! I can't thank my readers enough, it's been wonderful! And in celebration of that milestone... I'm taking a break. Hopefully not forever, but for a little bit at least. In the mean time I plan on getting a new layout out, along with some updates to some of the older articles. I'll post updates here and on the Facebook page, I'm also brainstorming some new animal-related projects, so keep an eye out! Thanks again for four awesome years!


The Binturong ( Arctictis binturong ) also has an equally awesome alternate common name, the Bearcat! However, it really isn't much of a bear OR a cat. While it is true that it is part of the Feliforma suborder, it is not a member of family Felidae. Binturongs are a part of their own family, Viverridae, which is shared with Civets, Linsangs, and Genets. There are six subspecies of Binturong, all of which have slight differences based upon location and habitat. Binturongs range in body size from 60-100cm in length, (not including their tail which has roughly the same length) and weigh between 20 and 30lbs. Binturongs are nocturnal animals native to the rain forests of South East Asia. The species range spans through several countries including China, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. They are tree dwelling mammals, and have fully prehensile tails that basically double their body length and can be used to cling to the trees or to grasp food. Binturongs are phe