A sperm whale diving to hunt squid At up to 18 metres (60 ft) long, the sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales. It has the largest brain of any animal. It can can dive to depths of at least 1000 metres (3300 feet), and very likely up to three times that depth. Sperm whales live together in groups, called pods, of 15 to 20 animals. Pods include females and their young; males roam solo or move from pod to pod. Sperm whales can live for 70 years.
A pod of sperm whales off Mauritius, Indian Ocean
The anatomy of a sperm whale's head. Below the spermaceti organ lies the "junk”. This consists of compartments of spermaceti,...Read More >>The anatomy of a sperm whale's head. Below the spermaceti organ lies the "junk”. This consists of compartments of spermaceti, separated by walls of cartilage. It is the equivalent of the melon that all toothed whales have, an organ which allows the whale to emit and hear sounds under water (for echolocation).
Usually, the sperm whale dives down into the water around 400 metres (1300 feet) for around 35 minutes in search of deep-sea squid, its main food. However, it is thought to be capable, scientists believe, of descending to 3000 metres (10,000 feet) for 90 minutes or longer in its hunt for prey.
The sperm whale's huge, square head contains a special organ which helps it to descend and ascend long distances. This organ, called the spermaceti, is filled with a waxy substance. When the whale dives, the cold water cools the wax, causing it to solidify and make the head heavier. On ascent, blood flow to the head warms and melts the wax, making the head lighter.
On long dives, sperm whale mothers will leave their baby with another female to look after it until she returns.
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