Sperm whales coming up to the sea surface to breathe

Sperm whale

The mighty sperm whale is a multiple record-breaker. It is the largest of the toothed whales with some males reaching 20 metres in length. Its enormous box-like head with left-sided blow hole contains the biggest brain of any living animal. It is also the deepest diving mammal, reaching depths of 3,000 metres (nearly two miles) although the average dive is between 300 and 600 metres. These dives can last for a couple of hours before the whale has to come up for breath. A sperm whale’s ability to echolocate may aid in its hunt for giant squid and octopus. It makes clicks by blowing air that are among the loudest sounds made by any animal, possibly loud enough to stun prey. Sperm whales are found in all the world's oceans in tropical to sub-polar waters.

Scientific name: Physeter macrocephalus

Rank: Species

Common names:

Common cachalot

Watch video clips from past programmes (5 clips)

In order to see this content you need to have an up-to-date version of Flash installed and Javascript turned on.

Habitats

The following habitats are found across the Sperm whale distribution range. Find out more about these environments, what it takes to live there and what else inhabits them.

Additional data source: Animal Diversity Web

Conservation Status

Vulnerable

  1. EX - Extinct
  2. EW
  3. CR - Threatened
  4. EN - Threatened
  5. VU - Threatened
  6. NT
  7. LC - Least concern

Population trend: Unknown

Year assessed: 2008

Classified by: IUCN 3.1

BBC News about Sperm whale

Video collections

Take a trip through the natural world with our themed collections of video clips from the natural history archive.

  • Nature's record breakers Nature's record breakers

    Animal kingdom record breakers - how fast can a cheetah run, how heavy is an elephant and what's bigger than a dinosaur? Watch amazing video clips from the BBC archive and uncover the fascinating facts about our smallest primate, the longest stick insect and the most venomous snake.

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.