Sperm Whale Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

A sperm whale is a huge animal that has a very big head and a big brain! Learn what sperm whales look like, where they live and what they like to eat for dinner.

What Are Sperm Whales?

Would you like to be best friends with a sperm whale? If so, you'll need to start eating squid, learn how to communicate using clicking noises, and hold your breath for up to an hour. Oh, and you'll have to get used to being hundreds of times smaller than your best friend, because the sperm whale gets its reputation for being the biggest toothed predator in the world.

A sperm whale and a sperm whale skeleton
sperm whale

These gray whales typically grow to be 50 feet long. That's about as long as the distance between the pitcher's mound and home base on a little league baseball field. As mentioned, sperm whales have teeth, which is not something common among whales (most have filtering systems in place of teeth). The sperm whale also has a very big head that holds a big brain and a unique oily substance called spermaceti. This oily substance is where sperm whales get their name.

Where Are Sperm Whales Found?

Since sperm whales are so big, it makes sense that they live in big oceans. The males are travelers and will swim into the somewhat cold ocean waters. The female whales like to stay in the warmer tropical waters where they care for their young in groups called pods. A pod can have as many as 20 whales and is kind of like a nursery school where young sperm whales are protected and learn from the adult female whales. Could you imagine growing up with your mom, grandma, aunts and all of your siblings in one place?

What Do Sperm Whales Eat?

Sperm whales are very good at holding their breath, which helps them dive deep into the ocean to gather food. If a sperm whale sets its sights on some of its favorite foods, like squid, octopus and fish, it can stay under water for more than an hour as it fills its belly. The sperm whale can weight up to 50 tons, so you can imagine that's a big belly to fill. An adult male sperm whale might eat one or two tons of food a day!

Sperm whales use a series of clicking noises to communicate with each other and locate food. This communication using clicking noises is known as echolocation. The clicks produced by the whale travel through the water and bounce off of objects, much like an echo. Hearing where the echo comes from tells the whale where the object is.

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