Sperm Whale
Sperm Whale

Sperm Whale

Sperm whale classification

The scientific name of the Sperm whale is Physeter macrocephalus. The Sperm whale was scientifically described by Linnaeus in 1758. In most modern classifications, the Sperm whale is considered to be the only member of the genus Physeter as well as the only member of the entire Physeteridae family.

The Sperm whale family is a collective name given to three different species of sperm whale: The Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), the Pygmy Sperm whale (Kogia breviceps) and the Dwarf Sperm whale (Kogia sima). The sperm whale family is sometimes considered a taxonomic superfamily and has the scientific name Physeteroidea. Physeter macrocephalus belongs to the family Physeteridae, while Kogia breviceps and Kogia sima belongs to the family Kogiidae. There is however Sperm whale experts who prefer to list all the three species in the family Kogiidae, and name the Sperm Whale Physeter catodon.

Sperm whale range and habitat

The Sperm whale is a circum global species that is present in all the large oceans of the world as well as in the Mediterranean Sea. It lives in cold arctic waters as well as in the warm waters around the equator. You can usually find denser Sperm whale populations near continental shelves and in canyons. Sperm whales are probably attracted to these environments since it is easier for them to feed there. Sperm whales spend a lot of time in deep waters far from the shore, but you can sometimes spot them quite close to the coastline in regions where the continental shelf is comparatively small.

Sperm whale size

The Sperm whale is the largest toothed whale in the world, but it is not the largest whale. The largest whale is instead the Blue whale ((Balaenoptera musculus)), but the Blue whale has no teeth. The male Sperm whale is considerably larger than the female Sperm whale. An adult male Sperm whale will typically reach a length of 52-59 feet (16-18 metres), while the adult female stays around 39-46 feet (12-14 metres). The male can also weigh twice as much as the female; 55 short tons compared to her 27.5 short tons.  

The Sperm whales used to be even larger in the past, but the average Sperm whale size have decreased dramatically since the 18th century. The Sperm whale was hunted chiefly for its valuable spermaceti, and since really large male Sperm whales carry the largest amount of spermaceti they were the prime target for whalers. If you visit the Nantucket museum, you can for instance see an 18 feet (5.5 metre) long jawbone from a Sperm whale caught a long time ago. Since the jawbone of a Sperm whale typically constitutes 20-25 percent of its total body length, the jawbone most likely belonged to a 90 feet (28 metre) long Sperm whale. In 1820, a Nantucket whaling ship named Essex was destroyed by a huge Sperm whale and 12 of the 20 sailors died. This whale was never scientifically measured, but according to the story it was approximately 85 feet (26 metres) long.

 

Sperm whale
Sperm whale

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