Name: Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)
Length: 16 – 20 meters
weight: 41.000 kg
Habitat: subarctic and subantarctic waters, worldwide
Nutrition: Main-food is squid; also fish, rays, octopuses, giant mouth-sharks
Appearance: Grey or black; the square-shaped head can make up a third of the body length.
How do sperm whales hunt?
Sperm whales usually eat about 900 kg of food per day. To find their prey (especially giant squids), they dive between 300 and 1,200 meters deep, but can dive up to a maximum of 2,000 meters. An average dive lasts about an hour.
The whales generate the loudest sound in the animal world – a series of clicks – and use echolocation to focus the sound on their prey.
The teeth in the lower jaw of sperm whales are between 18 and 20 cm long and fit exactly in hollows on the underside of the upper jaw. The teeth of the upper jaw never grow out.
Scientists believe that sperm whales and giant squid fight each other. Although such fights have never been observed before, round scars on the whale skin probably originate from the squid suckers.
When sperm whales in the group hunt smaller fish, they try to drive the shoal of fish into a narrow “ball of fish” to increase the efficiency of the hunt.
Are sperm whales social?
Outside of the combination-time, male Pottwale live alone, while females and its young live together in groups of up to 20 individuals. These groups are left by young males in the age of 4 years, whereupon these own groups form, until they become einzelgängerisch in higher age.
Only the older males move to the colder waters around the South and North Pole, while the groups with females and juveniles remain in the tropics and temperate zones.
Most of the time, sperm whales are hunting, but sometimes you see them socializing with each other, calling each other and seeking physical contact with each other.
When attacked, they form a group around their most vulnerable group member, with their tail fins pointing outwards for defense.
How fast do sperm whales swim?
The average speed of a sperm whale is between 5 and 15 km/h. However, they can accelerate to 35 – 45 km/h for about one hour.
How do sperm whales reproduce?
Males become sexually mature with approximately 18 years, females already with 9 years.
Males fight with each other for the right to mate, and mate afterwards with several females. However, they do not stay with the females, so they do not form harems.
The pregnancy of the females lasts about 15 months and results in a single calf. The birth is a social event where the mother is shielded and protected by the rest of the group.
The calf can be suckled for up to 13 years, but is usually weaned after 2 years.
Females mate in distances of 4 to 20 years until they are about 40 years old.
How long do sperm whales live?
Pottwale live similarly long as humans and become approximately 70 years old. Males are not fully grown until they are about 50 years old.
How many sperm whales are there these days?
Assumptions assume about 200,000 sperm whales in the oceans.
Do sperm whales have natural enemies?
The killer whale is the biggest threat to sperm whales, but also the close relatives of the small killer whales (also called fake killer whales) have already been observed attacking sperm whales. Swordwhales attack the groups to capture a kitten (or female). Sperm whales generally remain a difficult prey even for killer whales.
When we look at human whaling activities, the sperm whale offered two very valuable ingredients in addition to the usual resources of fat, meat and oil.
- spermaceti – used for a number of medicinal products, candles, cosmetics and impregnation
- Ambergris – A waxy substance that forms in the intestine of the whale around irritations such as indigestible squid beaks; similar to the formation of pearls in oysters. The whale slowly produces this substance over a number of years. Ambergris was used in the perfume industry because it was so rare, but alternative solutions were soon sought.
Do sperm whales attack humans?
Although sperm whales usually retreat when ships are nearby, there are descriptions of attacks on boats. Some scientists believe that the whales remember human aggression and take revenge, others believe that they are simply accidents.