Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Sperm Whale

Physeter macrocephalus


Fun Facts

    The sperm whale is the largest of the toothed whales and the largest toothed predator.

    Moby Dick, the great white whale, is a sperm whale.



  The sperm whale is a type of marine mammal that is found in the open ocean. Sperm whales occur from the poles to the equator and are found in all the oceans. The distinct body is not likely to be confused with any other species. The large, block-shaped head can be one-quarter to one-third of the entire length of the animal. The S-shaped blowhole is located near the front of the head and shifted to the left. This gives rise to a distinctive thick, forward-angled spray. Mature males average 52 feet (16 meters) in length. Sperm whales feed on large squid and are the deepest diving mammal. They can dive down to 9,800 feet (3 kilometres). They use a clicking vocalization, a form of echolocation and communication, that may be as loud as 230 decibels underwater, making it the loudest sound produced by any animal. It also has the largest brain of any animal on Earth. Females give birth every four to twenty years, and care for the calves for more than a decade. Sperm whales can live for more than 60 years. From the early eighteenth century, this species was a prime target of whalers. The head of the whale contains a liquid wax called spermaceti, from which the whale derives its name. Spermaceti was used in lubricants, oil lamps, and candles. Ambergris, a waste product from the digestive system, is still used as a fixative in some perfumes.

More information on sperm whales and other marine mammals can be found at the Aquarium in the Whales & Dolphins Room and in the Courtyard.