Did you know that sperm whales communicate with other members of their family pod using a handful of patterned clicks. All whales in a pod use the same small selection of patterned clicks. Scientists think the animals use the sounds to show other whales in the pod that they’re part of the same gang. But the researchers found that a female which had recently given birth to a calf used a completely different pattern of clicks, probably to help identify herself to her calf so that the calf can find her.
Sperm whales hold many records:
- they’re the deepest diving mammal
- are the largest toothed whale
- and have the biggest brain on Earth
But they don’t have the sharpest eyesight or sense of smell. So they communicate using codas, which can be incredibly loud. The sounds are very different to the sounds made by other marine mammals like humpback whales, which sing haunting songs to each other, or dolphins which whistle.
The whales make the sounds in the ‘big tub of oil at the front of their huge heads. Along with air sacs in the whales’ heads, the structure produces multiple pulses, just fractions of a second apart.
Sperm whale pods are made up of females – with a few young – and average around 12 individuals. Male sperm whales leave the pod when they’re juveniles and join all-male pods for a few years, before living a solitary life roaming the oceans.
Sperm whales are fairly nomadic, travelling hundreds of miles across the open ocean to feed on squid.
Sperm whales regularly dive to depths of over 800 metres in search of their squid prey. They have collapsible lungs to allow them to cope with the pressure at these depths.
Young sperm whales can’t dive this deep for the first two to four years of their lives, so they’re looked after by other members of the nearly all-female pod, while their mother dives in search of squid. ‘This inability to dive deep when they’re young is a great driver of the sperm whales’ social system.