It is the only living member of the genus Physeter and one of three extant species in the sperm whale family , along with the pygmy sperm whale and dwarf sperm whale of the genus Kogia. The sperm whale is a pelagic mammal with a worldwide range, and will migrate seasonally for feeding and breeding. The females cooperate to protect and nurse their young. Females give birth every four to 20 years, and care for the calves for more than a decade. A mature sperm whale has few natural predators, although calves and weakened adults are sometimes killed by pods of killer whales orcas.
Sperm Whale Facts
On the swells of the Sea of Cortez, everything looks like a whale. Lulled by disappointment, the rocking boat and general monotony, I drift into torpor. Then, less than half a mile away, a series of unmistakable spouts erupts, and bursts of exhalation carry across the water. The calves and juveniles are 15 to 20 feet long, and some of the larger females are more than 30 feet from head to tail a male would be almost twice as long. We approach one that appears to be sleeping, its rumpled back and bulging head rolling with the waves. It snorts awake and swims off as its companions drift away from us in loose pairs and trios.
All rights reserved. Sperm whales' heads are filled with a mysterious substance called spermaceti. Scientists have yet to understand its function, but believe it may help the animal regulate its buoyancy.
Sperm whales Physeter catodon , or cachalots, are the largest of the toothed whales , with males up to 19 meters 62 feet long—more than five times the length of a large elephant —and females up to 12 meters 39 feet in length. They are easily recognized by their enormous square head and narrow lower jaw. As far as we can tell, Moby Dick was the only sperm whale that delivered a unique brand of karmic justice to one-legged sea captains bent on vengeance.