Sperm Whale – Spice Maker for The Ocean

Sperm Whale – Spice Maker for The Ocean
  • The world’s largest toothed whale:

 Whales are divided into toothed whales and baleen whales. We can distinguish them based on whether they have teeth.  For example, sperm whales, beaked whales, and dolphins belong to the tooth whale suborder, while blue whales, fin whales, fin whales, etc. belong to the Whale suborder. 

They can grow up to 18 meters in length, weigh more than 50 tons, and have a life span of about 70 years, with a maximum of more than 100 years.  It is widely distributed in non-icing seas all over the world, mainly inhabiting seas between 70 degrees north and south latitudes.

 They swim quickly, at speeds up to 12 nautical miles per hour.  They often live in groups of 5 to 20 and up to 200 to 300, and they mainly eat large squid and fish.  The stomach capacity can reach more than 300 kg, and the swallowing volume is quite amazing.

  • Diving Champion:

Sperm whales can hold their breath underwater for up to two hours because it breathes in for five minutes before diving. Let oxygen combine with myoglobin. But when it saw the whaling ship, it was too nervous to go deep. It also has a very special preference, that is, the king squid that preys on the deep sea. Because the king squid is the main food source for sperm whales, it has evolved excellent diving capabilities in order to prey on the king squid in the deep sea.

  • Strange way of sleeping:

  I guess you probably haven’t watched the sperm whale sleep. Let me show you the picture below.

The sperm whale in the picture is looking for a suitable sleeping place

If you just glance at it, you might think that what you see is a Stonehenge. When you look closely, you will find that this is a huge group of sperm whales sleeping, drifting towards the sea while sleeping. According to the research of scientists, sperm whale sleeps only about 7% of its life, and it is one of the shortest sleeping mammals, so people can’t see it sleeping, and it’s justifiable. People don’t give you a chance. Look. (It’s arrogant)

  • The precious product called Ambergris:

The origin of the name of the sperm whale is related to its product. The sperm whale swallowed the giant squid in one bite, but could not digest the squid’s horny beak. They gradually secrete a thick dark substance in the small intestine that wraps this indigestible thing. It is stored in the colon and rectum. It smells bad when it is first discharged. It drifts in the sea for a while and gradually smells better than “musk.” Ambergris is the best substance to keep perfume fragrance and is used as a perfume fixative. Ambergris need to be floated in the sea for hundreds of years to become white, reaching the standard of top-grade ambergris. In other words: killing the sperm whale and then removing the ambergris from its belly is worthless!


At present, the international market for natural ambergris is completely controlled by France, a major perfumery country. The purchase price per kilogram is between 14,000 and 45,000 francs, and the processing price of the fragrance company is 60,000 to 100,000 francs per kilogram. Comes as a fixative for perfumes, such as Hermes perfumes, faith perfumes and other precious French perfumes all contain ambergris.

Hermes and Faith Perfume

In addition, in “Compendium of Materia Medica” it is recorded that ambergris can “promote blood circulation, benefits essence, help Yang Dao, and promote blood circulation”. Ambergris in traditional Chinese medicine is used as a medicine for reducing phlegm, dispersing knots, and promoting blood circulation. It can be said that ambergris is very high in terms of drug value and economic value.

  • Stranded sperm whale:

First formally documented stranded injured sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that washed ashore in Mannar, Sri Lanka in 1889. There is also a seasonal trend in strandings, with the highest number of reports recorded in August and November in Sri Lanka. This species is most commonly seen in waters off northwest, northeast, and southern waters in Sri Lanka.

Sperm whale pod off Mirissa, in Southern Sri Lanka in 2019
  • The tragedy of sperm whales:

The whale oil and whale naphtha of the whale are expensive, and the sperm whale has precious ambergris in its body, and its action is slow and clumsy, resulting in its large number of killings. Although the whaling industry has now been stopped, fishing nets, ship collisions and environmental pollution still threaten these giant sea creatures, making the planet’s most adaptable species tragically nowhere to hide. Every year, a large number of whales are killed due to stranding. Turtles caught on fishing nets, 44 pounds of plastic found in pregnant giant whales, the decline of marine species diversity, etc. News are reminding us that the marine environment has become a major problem for us.

Why it’s called sperm whale

Rajitha Dissanayake

Researcher in the field of Marine Mammals and Bio-acoustic

I'm a Master’s student in marine mammals and bio-acoustic laboratory, Institute of Deep-Sea Science and Engineering (IDSSE), Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) and focusing on the sustainable environmental application, conservation, and exploring all aspects of the ecology and behavior of marine mammals.