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The sperm whale

The sperm whale (also known as the Physeter Macrocephalus or Cachalot) is the largest toothed whale in existence. These carnivores live on fish and squid, and their head and jaw make up over half of their body’s length. They can consume up to a ton of food a day! The sperm whale can live to more than 60 years old, and in this time can grow up to 16 meters (52 ft) in length. It has the largest brain of any animal on Earth, more than five times heavier than a human’s.

Image credit BMMRO

The Sperm Whale is the second deepest diving mammal in the world (close runner up to the Cuvier’s beaked whale) and reaches depths of up to 2.4k meters (7.3k ft). The whale lifts its flukes (two sections of tail fin) high out of the water as it begins a feeding dive. It has a series of ridges on the back's caudal third instead of a dorsal fin. The largest ridge was called the 'hump' by whalers and can be mistaken for a dorsal fin because of its shape and size. In contrast to the smooth skin of most large whales, its back skin is can be wrinkly and has been likened to a prune by whale-watching enthusiasts

Females and young males live together in groups while mature males live solitary lives outside of the mating season. The females cooperate to protect and nurse their young. Females give birth every four to twenty years, and care for the calves for more than a decade. At birth both sexes are about the same size, but mature males are typically 30% to 50% longer and three times as large females.

Image credit BMMRO

Sperm whales communicate via ‘echolocation’ – a vocal sound that they send through the water which bounces back once it has made contact with an object, signalling the location of the object to the whale, what its size is etc.

A mature sperm whale has few natural predators, although calves and are sometimes killed by pods of orcas.