The Sperm Whale is the largest predatory animal living on Earth today, reaching nearly 70 feet in length. It hunts in the deep ocean, and its prey often includes the second largest living predator - the Colossal Squid. Sperm Whales are known for their large heads, which contain oil called spermaceti. It is this substance, once commonly used in lamps and candles, that gives the whale its common name.
Sperm whales were hunted extensively from the 1700s to the 1900sfor the spermaceti oil in their large heads, which is believed tohelp the whale sense its prey in the darkness of the deep seathrough amplifying its echolocation. Echolocation is a sonar-likeprocess in which the whale sends out sounds, which bounce back tothe whale and provide information about its environment. Spermacetiwas used for making lamps, candles, soaps, and make-up. The whaleswere also hunted for a substance in their digestive tracts calledambergris, which was used in perfumes.
Today, the species is protected nearly worldwide and commercialwhaling has been largely halted globally. However, the Sperm Whalestill faces threats from becoming tangled in fishing nets, and frombeing struck by large ships. Pollution also affects Sperm Whales,particularly by eating too much plastic garbage which has becomevery common in the ocean. The Sperm Whale is currently listed as"Vulnerable" by the International Union for the Conservation ofNature (IUCN).