Adventist Youth Honors Answer Book/Species Account/Physeter macrocephalus

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Physeter macrocephalus (Sperm Whale)

Where found: The sperm whale can be found anywhere in the open ocean.

Description: Largest of the toothed whales and largest toothed predator in the world.

The Sperm Whale breaks all kinds of records! Mature males may reach 20.5 metres (67 ft) and 57,000 kilograms (males much larger than females). It is the loudest of any animal, second deepest diving mammal with dives of up to 90 minutes, largest brain (five times heavier than a human brain), 116 kg (255 lbs) heart, longest intestinal system (exceeding 300 m in larger specimens) and other mind blowing measurements.

The sperm whale's distinctive shape comes from its very large, block-shaped head, which can be one-quarter to one-third of the animal's length. The S-shaped blowhole is located very close to the front of the head and shifted to the whale's left, giving a distinctive bushy, forward-angled spray. Primary food is squid and they can live for more than 60 years.

The sperm whale's flukes are triangular and very thick. Proportionally, they are larger than that of any other cetacean, and are very flexible. The whale lifts its flukes 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', 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 usually wrinkly and has been likened to a prune by whale-watching enthusiasts.

From the early 18th century through the late 20th the species was a prime target of whalers. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, which was used in lubricants, oil lamps, and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from its digestive system, is still used as a fixative in perfumes. The Sperm Whale is now protected by a whaling moratorium, and is currently listed as vulnerable. Sperm whales have sunk ships, including the real life Moby Dick who sunk the Essex. Jonathan Bird's Blue World: Sperm Whales


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