Sperm Whales are the loudest animals on earth and the most abundant of the whale species. They are known for their underwater diving qualities and spermaceti oil.
Being the largest toothed whales and deepest diving air-breathing animals, not much is known about sperm whales as they spend most of their time underwater. These predators are extremely deep divers that hold their breath and dive thousands of feet down to feed themselves with deep sea squid and fish. They breathe for 7-8 minutes and dive for 30 minutes to 1 hour. They sleep on the surface during night. If you thought that only humans are intelligent, you’re wrong! These whales are considered to be clever as they have last names for the group they are in. Individual whales also have their own “names”, a typical tone to distinguish them from the group.
The Sperm Whale derives its name from the spermaceti organ that is said to fill most of its huge head. New England whalers of 18th and 19th centuries sought out the Sperm Whale for the spermaceti oil that is known as an excellent lubricant. However, two theories prevail about the spermaceti organ even though nobody is absolutely sure about it. The first theory says that the organ acts as a buoyancy control device. The other one says that the organ is used to focus and control the beam of sound that the whale uses for echolocation, a technique used to see in complete darkness. During echolocation, the whale produces some loud clicks that travel through the water and bounce back on the objects in their path. The reflected sound comes back to the whale and through this; it identifies the distance and direction to hunt its prey.
The structure of these giant sea animals is quite bizarre. They have a huge box shaped head. Their mouth is filled with conical teeth in the lower jaw that are 4 inches long (a big one can be 8 inches long!). They look really cruel but hardly help in feeding as most of the items recovered from the stomachs of Sperm Whales are not even chewed. They are swallowed whole. In fact, a giant squid as long as 40 foot(12 meters) and weighing up to 440 pounds(200 kg) has been recovered from a sperm whale! A sperm whale weighs about 40-50 tons and is 50 feet (15 meters) long. It is found in all oceans and its diet majorly includes giant squid, fish, octopus and skate. Its lifespan is about 70 years. Its brain is the largest brain of all animals and weighs about 20 pounds (9 kg). It has a single, s-shaped blowhole that is 20 inches(51 cm) long and produces a dark, waxy substance called ambergris, which is produced in its lower intestines and helps to protect itself from the stings of the giant squid.
The population of Sperm Whales is estimated at more than a million. These majestic beasts were once hunted to near extinction for their spermaceti oil that was considered to be the best lubricating oil on earth. Now, these whales are protected by law and hence, it is this species of whale which is not endangered. It was during the 1970s that the Save the Whale movement gained international recognition and the predicament to protect whales came to light.
They are found in oceans in both, tropical and cool waters and live on the surface, but dive very deep to catch their major prey, the giant squid. More astonishing is the fact that Sperm whales can stay submerged more than an hour even without taking a breath due to their peculiar ability to store oxygen in their blood and muscles. They can also sing some extremely complex songs that are heard over thousands of kilometers. It has been observed in a study that these deep diving whales can descend in the depth at an astounding 550 feet(168 meter) per minute. It is fascinating to know that Sperm whales are not dangerous – so when you are travelling in the sea, they will not break your ship apart or swallow you!