Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus Linnaeus, 1758

Suborder: Odontoceti Family: Physeteridae

Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus

Sightings in Madeira

All year but mostly from March to September

ID characteristics

Very long, dark grey body with wrinkled skin and a low, triangular or rounded hump instead of dorsal fin.
Squarish head with single slit-like blowhole on left side near the forehead.
Broad triangular flukes.

Surface behaviour

When surfacing usually remains almost motionless but may swim leisurely. Normally it is visible at surface between 10 and 15 minutes while its dives may last in average 45 minutes. Flukes raised on diving. Frequently breaches and lobtails.

Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus


Widely distributed between parallels 65º North and 70º South.
Worldwide in deep waters avoiding polar seas


Alone or in group up to 50 individuals


Mainly squid but sometimes fish.

Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus


Max length: 18.3 m
Adult weight: 20 to 50 ton


Diagonal blow, bush shaped and projected forward at low angle. Normally about 2 m but can reach 5 m.

Sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus

IUCN Status: Vulnerable
Madeira frequency status: Common

Other languages common names

ENG - Cachalot, Pot Whale, Spermacet Whale
GER - Pottwal
FRA - Cachalot
ESP - Cachalote, Ballena de Esperma
DAN - Kaskelothval
ITA - Capodoglio
NED - Potvis
NOR - Spermkval, Spermhval
POL - Kaszalot, Potwal, Potwal olbrotowiec
POR - Cachalote

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