Sperm Whale
Physeter macrocephalus 

Scientific Name: Physeter macrocephalus

Other Names: Great Sperm Whale, Cachalot, Pot Whale, Spermacet Whale
Formerly classified as P. Catodon

Suborder: Odontocete

Family: Physeteridae 

The Sperm Whale has a long body with dark wrinkled skin  which is mainly dusky grey-brown with off-white colouration ventrally (underneath) and around the mouth. It head is box-like with a blunt snout and almost a 1/3 of the length of its body. Its flippers are disproportionaltely small and it has a triangular or rounded hump on its back (which may appear fin-like in some) followed by a spinal ridge with “knuckles” down to its broad, triangular-shaped tail flukes. 

Maximum Length
Male: 15 - 18.3 m
Female: 8 - 17m
Calf: 3.5 - 4.5m
Maximum Weight
Male: 55.8 tons
Female: 20 tons
Calf: 1 ton

Sperm Whale Ecology

Range: Sperm Whales are usually found from 60ºN - 70ºS: from the subtropical convergence in the southern hemisphere to the subartic boundary or Subpolar convergence in the Northern Hemisphere.

Usual Habitat: Often observed where the continental shelf drops off dramatically and the water depth ranges from 1000-3000m.

Usual group size: 10-50

Main Diet: Large squid

Local population: Unknown

Global range of the Sperm Whale

The dark blue areas indicate where Sperm Whales are likely to be found

Conservation Information 

Protection and Conservation Status

IUCN Conservation Status: 
Sperm Whales
are listed as "Vulnerable" on the IUCN red list.

SPAW Protocol:  Sperm Whales are cetaceans, which are listed under Annex II of the SPAW protocol. As such they require total protection under article 11 of this protocol which prohibits the "taking, possession, killing and commercial trade of the species, their parts or products". The SPAW protocol was created to help with the implementation and promotion of the Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity. The Annexes of the SPAW protocol can be found here.

Local Laws: Cetaceans are protected under the Conservation of Wildlife Act of Trinidad and Tobago which offers protection to all species not listed under the second or third schedules of this act.     

Reports of Sperm Whales in Trinidad and Tobago
This is currently being researched and written. It will appear here shortly.


The above information was obtained from the following sources:

  • A Princeton Field Guide: Whales Dolphins and Other Marine Mammals of the World by Hadoram Shirihai and Brett Jarrett (2006)
  • Smithsonian Handbooks: Whales Dolphins and Porpoises by Mark Carwardine and illustrated by Martin Camm (2002)
  • The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society's Species Guide at http://www2.wdcs.org/species/index.php
  • The IUCN Redlist at http://www.iucnredlist.org
  • The SPAW protocol Annexes with links available at http://www.car-spaw-rac.org/?Annexes-of-the-SPAW-Protocol,83

We would like to thank the following people for the use of the art work and photographs:

  • Alësha Naranjit (Illustration of Sperm Whale)
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