Subject: Sperm Whales info

n.patenaude@auckland.ac.nz
Tue, 25 Mar 1997 11:34:46 GMT+1200

From:          Paragontla@aol.com
Date:          Sun, 23 Mar 1997 12:23:43 -0500 (EST)
To:            n.patenaude@auckland.ac.nz, pita@whale.simmons.edu,
               krill@whale.simmons.edu
Subject:       Sperm Whales

Dear Nathalie,

Often, when children picture a whale, they think of Monstro from Pinnochio or
Moby Dick from Melville's classic novel, (although Killer Whales have become
as familiar if not more so in recent times).  My six year old daughter is
very interested in whales and when she asked me what kind of whale Monstro
was it took me a few minutes to recall that it was a Sperm Whale (I think?).
 It struck me, that the Sperm Whale is the universal symbol for what a whale
looks like yet I know next to nothing about it.  I couldn't even explain
where its name comes from, although I believe it has something to do with a
substance called spermacetti, but thats about the extent of my knowledge.
 Ashley, my daughter, suggested I look on the internet and thats when I found
the whalenet and your email.

So, our question is, what can you tell us about Sperm whales and where can we
get more information?  Thank you for time and help.

Anxious to know more about Sperm Whales,


Tim and Ashley Anderson


Yes, sperm whales are called sperm whales because of the huge spermaceti organ that takes up 
most of the upper part of the head.  It is a waxy substance that looks like, yes you guessed 
it, sperm.  No one is sure of its function.  It may serve in echolocation, or perhaps as an 
aid for buoyancy control.

Sperm whales are the largest of the toothed whales (odontocetes).  Males can measure up to 
18 m (60 ft) long, although on average they are about 125 m long, and the head represents 
about 30% of the length of the body.  Females are much smaller than the males.  
They are found in all oceans of the world, except in areas of polar ice.  They are 
impressive divers, able to go as deep as almost 3 km (1.8 miles).  They feed primarily on 
squid but also will eat octopus and fish.  
  

There's lots written about sperm whales.  I think the best thing is for you to get a book on 
marine mammals.  Have you tried the local library? I recommend 'Whales, dolphins and 
porpoises- Collins Eyewitness Handbooks- by Mark Carwardine. 1995.  It has great 
illustrations, and lots of information in it.  Another good one is the Sierra Club Handbook 
of Whales and Dolphins by Leatherwood, Reeves and Foster. 1983. You can also try finding 
'The Natural History of Whales and Dolphins' by P.G. Evans 1990. Christopher Helm Ltd, 
Imperial House; or The lives of Whales and Dolphins, by R.C. Connor and D. Micklethwaite 
Peterson form the American Museum of Natural History. 1994.



Nathalie Patenaude