Background Information

Physeter macrocephalus is the largest of the Odontocete whales growing up to 20.5m, it predates mainly Giant Squid (Architeuthis spp.). P. macrocephalus dives to extreme depths to hunt its prey; in doing this it experiences very high pressures of over 200 BAR.

P. macrocephalus distribution


The distribution of P. macrocephalus courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List rates P. macrocephalus as vulnerable. This is likely due to being extensively hunted for Spermaceti oil in the industrial era which began in the 18th century with the first known industrialised hunt of a Sperm Whale in approximately 1712.

While over 1,000,000 individual P. macrocephalus have been hunted since then, it is still the most abundant of any of the large whale species; with today there being somewhere in the region of 200,000 to 1,500,000 individuals. This is a very broad estimate which is because of the widely distributed nature of the species makes it difficult to produce a reliable and accurate estimate.

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