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Sperm Whales: Physeteridae

Behavior And Reproduction

Sperm whales appear to be very social, communicating through a series of clicks, whistles, and similar sounds. It appears as if each whale has a personal identification sound called a coda, that it makes when it meets other whales. These animals live in small groups. The composition of the group with regard to age, gender, and size changes as these animals age.


Spermaceti or sperm oil is a waxy substance, not a true oil, found in the head of marine mammals, especially the giant sperm whale. At the animal's body temperature, it is a clear yellowish liquid. After processing, it becomes a waxy solid. It was prized in the 1800s for making candles and soap and as a way to waterproof clothing (called oilskins). It was later used in cosmetics, ointments, and as a lubricant for watches. Today man-made oils and waxes are used in its place. An average sperm whale has 1,900 liters (500 gallons) of spermaceti.

Almost nothing is known about reproduction in the smaller species of this family. Female giant sperm whales give birth about every five years after a pregnancy that lasts between fourteen and sixteen months. Mothers and calves have strong social bonds, and calves nurse for many years after birth.

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceMammalsSperm Whales: Physeteridae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, Sperm Whales And People, Sperm Whale (physeter Macrocephalus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, CONSERVATION STATUS