The largest toothed whales [Fig. 1] which spend a long time in the depths of most of the seas and oceans of the world and recognized for its characteristic square head and long narrow jaws. The species name, Sperm whale is correlated with it’s anathomy in which you can find the spermaceti organ which is located in the head. It is said that the spermaceti organ contains large amounts of wax and oil which is why it is valuable. The main function of it is believed to be in thermoregulation, however this is poorly understood .
Commonly known as Cachalots, individuals of this species can measure up to 20 metres and weigh up to 40 tons.
Magnificent animals, they not only have the largest size brain of any living creature, but there is also not enough known about their life in the depths. While hunting they can reach the great depth of 3,280 feet in search for their favourite delicacy, deep sea squid .
Another astonishing fact about Cachalots is their way of communicating with each other. Did you know that these animals use special types of clicks known as codas. Those can differ in populations around the world. Clicks can reach up to 230dB which make them one of the loudest species if you compare them to other species like blue whales who reach 188dB. Physeter macrocephalus are highly social mammals which is why calves can spend many years with their mothers and why weaker members of the group are protected by stronger ones .
Unfortunately, Cachalots are victims of many dangers, since the 1700s when people were hunting them for their priceless spermaceti liquid. Nowadays, the main threats for them are being caught in fishing nets, ocasional illegal whaling events and pollution: noise, chemical substances, plastics, etc. Fortunately, hunting for Sperm Whales ended in 1970 by international order of protection (Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and by the 1992 EU Habitats and Species Directive). The last but not least danger is strandings, which have been highly noted in UK regions in recent years. The main reason for this seems to be disruption of their echolocation by various things such as; kind of substrate (muddy and sandy) in the sea and shallow depth. These factors can have a bad influence on effective echolocation of these mammals. That is why Cachalots are rearly seen in shallow seas. There has been an unusual sighiting of Sperm Whales in North Sea, Burghead, Moray on 5th of June in this year [Fig 1, 2, 3]. The group possibly consisted of nine immature males. These kind of reports are fascinating and worth hearing for everyone. Remember you can also help with our work by leting us know about your sightings, maybe some of them will also be unusual. Thanks to observations by many people, not only scientists we can be witnesses of great things like spotting Sperm Whales in the North Sea.
Written by Aleksandra Koroza, Research Intern, 2017