• Atlantic Naturalist

| Azorean Species | Sperm Whale - Physeter macrocephalus - Cachalote

Updated: Sep 30, 2019



Scientific Name: Physeter macrocephalus (Linneaus, 1758)

Common Name (UK, FR, PT, ES, DE): Sperm whale. Cachalot. Cachalote. Cachalot. Pottwal

Short Species description: The largest of the toothed whales, the Odontoceti, Sperm whales are the largest toothed animal on Earth. Robust body and distinctive big melon head due to the Spermaceti organ used for echolocation. Characteristic front-left oriented blow-hole. Adult females can reach 12.5 m and big males 19.2 and weight up to 57,000 kg. Newborns are 3.5-4.5 m and 1,000 kg. Can live more than 75 years. Prey on deep species mainly of cephalopods in the Azores but also fish (Carwardine 1995, Jefferson et al. 2015). Easily identifiable through body marks and fluke shape and scars.


Population status: 360,000 individuals worldwide. Vulnerable. (Jefferson et al. 2015).


Occurrence in the Azores (including season): Resident, Seasonal and Transient groups can be seen in the Azores. Normally seen deep-diving between 800-1200m depth bathymetry around the islands. Can also be observed resting, socializing. Some births have been recorded. Some individuals breach (Jump outside the water) and spy-hop.


Habitat Use: Cosmopolitans from the tropics to the polar areas. Deep divers they tend to inhabit continental slopes, canyons or island slopes, and oceanic waters deeper than 1,000 m (Jefferson et al. 2015).


Pod Size: pod sizes between 6 to 50 individuals


Typical Behavior: Matrilineal-based social structure where females are found in pods and males usually alone. Distinguished echolocation, very social inside their species. Deep and long divers: more than 2,000 m and 40'-90' long. They show the fluke (tail) when they dive. Can spy hope, breach, shallow dive, swim with the belly up and roll.

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References

Cerwardine, M. (1995). Baleias Golfinhos e Botos; O guia com imagens de todos os cetáceos do mundo. London: Bertrand Editora.


Jefferson, T.A., Webber, M.A., Pitman, R.L. (2015). Marine Mammals of the World; A Comprehensive Guide of Their Identification. 2nd edition. London: El Sevier.


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