How deeply sperm whales dive

Federal Agency for Nature Conservation BfN

Fights between sperm whales and giant squids in the deep sea - they really do exist. Whalers found giant tentacles in the stomach of sperm whales 200 years ago. Some whales had circular scars on their skin from the squid's suction cups. Today sperm whales are strictly protected and are no longer allowed to be hunted. Still, we know a lot about them. Since marine biologists' methods of exploring great depths have improved, sperm whales have been one of the most well-researched species of whale - yet they have remained mysterious and fascinating.

Sperm whales can dive 3,200 meters and hold their breath for 138 minutes - that's two hours and 18 minutes. They are traveling at a speed of 600 meters per minute. This allows sperm whales to reach hunting grounds that no other large predator can penetrate.


Typical of the sperm whale is its huge, box-shaped head with a narrow lower jaw. The lower jaw has 20 to 26 teeth on each side, which fit into recesses in the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. A large bull has teeth that can grow up to 25 centimeters long and weigh up to a kilo.

The so-called "melon" is located in the large head of the sperm whale. It is used by the whale during echolocation to bundle the sound and direct it towards a target. It also seems to play a role in the buoyancy of the animals while diving.

The sperm whale has a fairly small triangular dorsal fin, but a large fluke five to six meters wide that is lifted almost vertically out of the water as it descends. The blow from the single nostril is directed to the left anterior and powerful. The skin of the sperm whale looks wrinkled like a prune.