Sperm Whales

The sperm whales are the largest toothed whales, adult males 17-20m long and weighing 36-45 tonnes and females 11-13m long and weighing 14-18 tonnes, that live in social groups called pods.

The members of the pods have strong and long-lasting bonds, protecting the young and caring one another in sickness and injuries.

Although the sperm whales generally live at the surface, they dive up to a depth of 3,200 m when they hunt for bottom-dwelling giant squids.

They have a 50 cm long blowhole on the left side of their huge heads which they use for breathing and blow out a jet of water stream 15 m above water about 3-5 times a minute while resting at surface.

They float motionless like a log with back exposed to the surface and tail hanging down while at rest and are easy to approach in such a state.

Occasionally they stick their massive tail out of the water, swing it around in the air and slap it back into water with a loud thud which is known as lobtailing.

They use some form of vocalization for communication and for echolocation of the prey while hunting in the dark oceanic depths.

The sperm whales are found in almost all the open oceans except the polar seas and are rarely seen near the coasts.

They swim leisurely at the surface at about 5-15 kph but can attain the speed up to 40 kph while fleeing from danger.

Sperm whale breeding is not dependent on season; a female usually gives birth to a single calf 4 m long and weighing about 0.9 tonne after a gestation of 16 months; and the baby whale can swim within 30 minutes of birth.

A female reaches maturity within 9-10 years and a male within 18-19 years and have a life span of over 70 years.

Currently the sperm whale population is about 200,000 worldwide although there were over a million of them before widespread whaling, which is now much restricted.

They produce a dark, waxy substance called ambergris in the lower intestine as a protection against the stings from giant squids; and this substance is used in the manufacture of perfumes.

They produce valuable spermaceti oil (a kind of wax) in the spermaceti organ located in their head, which is used as a lubricant for fine machinery.

Article Written by Dolphi D'Silva [402 Words]
Posted on Oct 2, 2013 with Views.

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