whale is a large whale adapted to diving into deep water. It
has high levels of myoglobin in its muscle that improves the
oxygen capacity required for the deep dives. They also carry
oil in their spermaceti, a wax filled organ in the front of
the head. It was the spermaceti that 19th century
whalers sought for commercial production of cosmetics, soap,
candles and machine oil. Ambergris forms in the lower
intestine from indigestible beaks of squids eaten by sperm
whales and it is used as a fixative by the perfume industry.
Dives of 2.5 kilometers have been recorded (Whitehead 2003).
There are three species in the sperm whale in the family
Physeteridae, the sperm whale, the dwarf sperm whale and the
pygmy sperm whale. The sperm whale is found throughout the
world’s oceans as far as the polar ice packs (Wilson and Ruff
1999). In the Pacific, it occurs into the Bering Sea and the
Gulf of California. This species is long lived with the oldest
animals reaching 70 years of age and possibly a century. The
sperm whale derives its name from the spermaceti oil that
early whalers mistook to be semen (Whitehead 2003).
Pitman R. L. and S. J. Chivers 1999. Terror in back and white.
Natural History 107:26-29.
H. 2003. Sperm whales: social evolution in the ocean. Chicago
University Press, Chicago, Illinois.
and S. Ruff. 1999. Smithsonian book of North American mammals.
UBC Press, Vancouver.
avior, and physiology. University
of California Press, Berkeley..