Jump to navigation. Unlike the baleen whales, sperm whales are active predators, specializing on large squids in the deep sea but also eating large bony fishes and sharks. Sperm whales have several specialized physical characteristics that aid in this predatory behavior. They have large conical teeth for ensnaring their preferred prey. Like most active predators, they have large brains and in fact, the sperm whale has the largest brain of any animal on the planet. They also have the most powerful sonar of any animal, which they use to find their prey in the dark deep sea.
The sperm whale is the largest toothed whale. Males reach 60 feet 17 m in length and the smaller females are 37 feet 12 m. They are dark gray in color, have a hump rather than a dorsal fin, and usually display their tail flukes when they dive. Their skin is wrinkled to increase surface area for heat loss, giving them a shriveled look. Their heads make up one-third of their body length and are squarish in shape. They have a single, S-shaped blowhole located far forward and to the left of their head, which produces a distinctive angled spout or blow.
All rights reserved. Sperm whales' heads are filled with a mysterious substance called spermaceti. Scientists have yet to understand its function, but believe it may help the animal regulate its buoyancy.
That upset stomach creates ambergris, a rare substance that has been highly valued for thousands of years as an ingredient in perfume and pharmaceuticals. Ambergris originates in the intestines of male sperm whales after they dine on squid, whose hard, pointy beaks abrade the whales' innards. Scientists believe that the whales protect themselves by secreting a fatty substance in their intestines to surround the beaks. Eventually the animals cast out a huge lump, up to hundreds of pounds at a time.