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The sperm whale (Physeter catodon), or cachalot, the largest of the toothed whales, has a wide square head and narrow lower jaw. It is a dark blue-gray or brownish color, with white spots on its tail. It is a large creature with tiny paddle-like flippers and rounded humps on its back.
See the fact file below for more information on the sperm whale or alternatively, you can download our 19-page Sperm Whale worksheet pack to utilise within the classroom or home environment.
Key Facts & Information
- The name sperm whale is a truncated form of spermaceti whale.
- Spermaceti was initially thought to be the whale’s sperm but is actually the semi-liquid, waxy material found in its head.
- The sperm whale is also known as the “cachalot” which is believed to originate from the ancient French for “tooth” or “large teeth”, as preserved in the Gascon dialect, for example, in the word caishau.
- The word cachalot came from Spanish or Portuguese cachalote to English, perhaps from Galician or Portuguese cachola, meaning “big head”.
- The sperm whale is the species of toothed whale which has evolved the most. Its head is one-third of its total body length, and weighs more than one-third of the total body weight.
- The lower jaw is usually equipped with 36 to 50 large conical teeth; the upper jaw holds a variable number of vestigial teeth that do not erupt.
- The head of a sperm whale has a highly developed nose and upper lip, where the fluid-filled spermaceti organ is found; sperm oil and spermaceti have been extracted for use in lighting and lubrication from this fluid.
- This organ is unique to sperm whales. It has a capacity of up to 2,000 liters (530 gallons) and can reach over 40 percent of the whale’s body length.
- The sperm whale is unlikely to get confused with any other species. Its distinctive appearance comes from its very large, block-shaped head, which can be a quarter to a third of the length of the body.
- The flukes (tail lobes) of sperm whales are triangular and very large.
- Sperm whales are proportionally bigger than any other cetacean, and very flexible.
- The whale raises its flukes high out of the water as it begins a dive for feeding.
BEHAVIOR AND WHALE PODS
- Sperm whales are frequently seen in groups of around 15 to 20 species, called pods.
- Pods include females and their young, while males can wander individually or switch from group to group.
- Females and calves live throughout the year in tropical or subtropical waters, and females are responsible for looking after the young.
- Meanwhile, the males migrate, alone or in groups, to higher latitudes and move down to the equator for breeding.
- Driven by their tail fluke, they will sail the oceans at about 23 miles per hour, around 16 feet from tip to tip.
- Sperm whales are vocal, emitting a series of “clangs” that can be used to communicate or echolocate. Animals use echolocation to emit sounds that move underwater before they encounter objects, then bounce back to their senders — revealing their target position, size, and shape.
- Sperm whales can live for up to 70 years. They are a prime example of a K-selected species, which means their reproductive strategy is related to stable environmental conditions and includes low birth rates, significant parental assistance for offspring, slow maturation, and high longevity.
- It is slightly uncertain how sperm whales choose their partners. Males compete over females with each other, and males live and mate with several females, making them polygynous, but they don’t dominate the party like in a harem.
- Males do not care for their offspring.
SPERMACETI AND DIVING
- Sperm whales have the largest brain of any known species that has existed on Earth. Their heads also contain significant amounts of spermaceti.
- Sperm whales in search of a squid to eat are known to dive as deep as 3,280 feet. The whales have to hold their breath for up to 90 minutes on such dives.
- Sperm whales are deep divers, usually reaching a depth of approximately 350 meters, and have been found tangled in cables over 1,000 meters beneath the surface.
- Diving for an hour or more is not uncommon for sperm whales, and they then spend about 10 minutes breathing once every 10 seconds at the surface.
- They can cruise at speeds of 4 knots (7.4 km/h; 4.6 mph) and swim up to 20 knots (37 km/h; 23 mph) in spurts.
- These toothed whales eat thousands of pounds of fish and squid — about one ton a day.
Sperm Whale Worksheets
This is a fantastic bundle which includes everything you need to know about the sperm whale across 19 in-depth pages. These are ready-to-use Sperm Whale worksheets that are perfect for teaching students about the sperm whale (Physeter catodon), or cachalot, the largest of the toothed whales, which has a wide square head and narrow lower jaw. It is a dark blue-gray or brownish color, with white spots on its tail. It is a large creature with tiny paddle-like flippers and rounded humps on its back.
Complete List Of Included Worksheets
- Sperm Whale Facts
- Describe It
- SW Info
- Complete Me
- Fact or Bluff?
- Life Cycle
- Sperm Whale Parts
- Let’s See
- Breaking News
- Kinds of Whale
- Words for an Essay
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Link will appear as Sperm Whale Facts & Worksheets: https://kidskonnect.com - KidsKonnect, May 1, 2020
Use With Any Curriculum
These worksheets have been specifically designed for use with any international curriculum. You can use these worksheets as-is, or edit them using Google Slides to make them more specific to your own student ability levels and curriculum standards.