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profile  sperm whale


mh9. Sperm Whales (Physeter macrocephalus), social group underwater. Azores, Atlantic Ocean. ml226. Sperm Whale, exhaling at surface. Note how blowhole is on left side of head
ml17. Sperm Whale, tail flukes ln6126. Sperm Whale, underwater

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   vitals                                                              bio
Sperm Whale
scientific name Physeter macrocephalus
range circumglogal, tropical to polar
Azores, Dominica
habitat open ocean, and deep coastal
size to 60 feet (18m), 60 tons
diet giant squid
trivia 8 inch long conical teeth; "Moby Dick" was a rogue, bad-tempered sperm whale; one slit-like blowhole on left front corner of snout; can hold its breath up to 2 hours
Capable of diving to extreme depths (up to a mile or more beneath the surface) in pursuit of the giant squid- their favorite food- sperm whales are the world’s largest carnivore and the largest of the toothed whales (the Odontocetes). Males grow to 60 feet in length and almost 60 tons, females approximately 40 feet and 30 tons. Contrary to Melville's whale tale, sperm whales are not itching to charge and ram your boat. (Your odds may improve, however, if you've harpooned one :)
     Though hunted extensively around the world in times past (in large part for the fine quality oil found in their head's spermaceti organ, a tube-filled cavity which may aid in buoyancy and focusing sonar clicks), the "cachalot" is one of the few great whales with a healthy world-wide population similar to pre-whaling numbers, estimated at about one million. They are found in all the world’s oceans, and sometimes sighted in large groups of 50 or more. Science has dubbed this leviathan Physeter macrocephalus, meaning "big head". In fact, an adult bull's mammoth block-likehead may be up to 1/3 its body length.  Two much smaller species of sperm whales are recognized, the Pygmy sperm whale and the Dwarf Sperm Whale, though sightings are quite rare.
     Sperm whales exhibit social, and sexual, segregation. Adult males are usually solitary and spend much of their time feeding in polar waters north and south, while groups of females and calves congregate in warmer waters closer to the equator.


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