We all know whales as not only being the ocean’s largest marine mammal, but the world’s largest mammal ever. Although the whale is the largest mammal on earth, it may surprise you that whales can range drastically in size, weight, and length depending on the species. Without further ado, we will introduce you to the smallest whale in the ocean.
The smallest whale on earth is the Dwarf Sperm Whale. When it reaches adulthood, it can measure up to 9 feet long, weighing between 400 and 600 pounds, but the average adult dwarf sperm whale is around 8 to 8.5 ft long. Baby dwarf sperm whales are only about 3 or 4 feet long when born. Because they are smaller in nature, they can often be mistaken for other cetaceans such as dolphins, but they are in fact whales.
Dwarf sperm whales are suction feeders, meaning they ingest their prey by taking in fluids and sucking the prey into their mouth. They are mainly solitary animals but can be found traveling in small pods of 2 to 4 other dwarf sperm whales.
The dwarf sperm whale is a part of the Kogiidae family of 3 species that also include the pygmy sperm whale in the sperm whale superfamily. The pygmy sperm whale is close in size and appearance to the dwarf sperm whale, averaging 9 to 11 feet in length and weighing around 940 lbs. when mature.
The regular sperm whale is much, much larger than both the dwarf sperm whale and the pygmy sperm whale. The sperm whale is the 3rd largest whale, measuring about 40 feet in length and weigh between 77,000 and 130,000 lbs. at adulthood – about the length of 5 elephants! An adult sperm whale has a four-chambered heart that itself weighs about 300 lbs. (about as much as 2 humans!).
You may be asking, if the dwarf sperm whale, pygmy sperm whale, and regular sperm whale are all so different from each other, what makes them part of the same superfamily?
The etymology of the sperm whale comes from the spermaceti organ found in its head and present in each of the three species. The whale’s name originated in the 18th and 19th centuries when there was the commercial whale industry was prevalent. During whale harvests, this spermaceti organ was discovered to contain a white liquid that whalers mistook for the sperm of the whale. It was believed to produce sperm due to the waxy substance produced from it, which appears very similar to the color of sperm.
However, later researchers have found that this is not true but are still unsure of the purpose of this waxy substance. One common theory is that the waxy oil helps the sperm whale with echolocation by improving its ability to absorb sound.
Sperm whales are the largest species within the toothed whale order (systemic name Odontoceti). Sperm whales only have 18 to 26 teeth on each side of their lower jaw that fit into sockets in their upper jaw. Their teeth are cone-shaped and weigh about 2-3 lbs. each. Although the teeth are functional, they do not appear to serve a purpose in capturing or consuming prey, mainly fish or squid.
If you want to see the ocean’s majestic creatures up close and personal, we invite you to take a cruise with us at Harbor Breeze. We have been Long Beach’s top whale watching cruise guide for years, with exciting and informative narrative on each and every trip. Contact us today to book a trip you and the entire family will love and remember for years to com.