Difference between a whale and a sperm whale.

The whale and the sperm whale are brothers, if not relatives, then cousins ​​- for sure. They belong to the same biological order of cetaceans. But then their taxonomic paths diverge. Cetaceans include several suborders, one of which - baleen (or toothless) whales - includes whales themselves (or mystacocetes, as biologists call them); another suborder - toothed whales (odontocetes), which includes:

  • sperm whales;
  • killer whales;
  • dolphins;
  • narwhals;
  • porpoises;
  • a number of other marine mammals.

What is the difference between a whale and a sperm whale, except for biological classification? Let's consider in more detail.


Whales include ten species:

  • Greenlandic;
  • southern;
  • humpbacked;
  • dwarf;
  • gray;
  • fin whale;
  • sei whale;
  • vomited (Blue whale);
  • Bride's minke;
  • minke whale.

These are the largest animals on our planet. According to most scientists, one of the representatives of the order - the Blue Whale - is perhaps the most massive animal that ever lived on Earth. The dimensions of the largest specimens are up to 33 meters in length, and the mass of the largest specimen caught in 1947 near the island of New Georgia reached 190 tons! And the heaviest dinosaurs living in the Mesozoic reached a mass of "only" 100 tons. The habitats of different species of whales differ quite strongly: the blues (blue whales) prefer cold waters, while some others live mainly in the tropics and in the waters of the temperate zone.

Whales are mostly solitary, and herds, if they do occur, are never large. The Blue Whale shows the greatest craving for loneliness. The difference between a whale and a sperm whale is that the largest of the whales is able to dive to a depth of half a kilometer and a little more. And when chased by whalers, it can be under water for up to fifty minutes! The maximum speed in short sections is up to 50 kilometers per hour, and during migrations, when it is necessary to swim long distances, the average speed is much lower - about 30 kilometers per hour.

Sperm whales

Sperm whales, unlike whales, are always gregarious animals. Often, researchers record the accumulation of these marine life in the number of several hundred individuals. In terms of swimming, sperm whales are significantly inferior to whales: they cannot move faster than 35 kilometers per hour (or, at least, the researchers did not record a higher speed). However, they compensate for their relative slowness with excellent diving abilities. It is known that sperm whales easily dive to a depth of about one and a half kilometers, and some record-breaking "divers" achieve much more significant results: for example, according to various sources, researchers using a radio beacon attached to an animal recorded a diving depth of 2.5 or even 3.5 kilometers!

Sperm whales are much more thermophilic than whales, and do not occur in Arctic or Antarctic waters. The tendency to herd existence has developed certain social skills, and they prefer to get food together. However, due to the structural features of the oral cavity and larynx, whales do not need to hunt. It would be more correct to say about their feeding not “hunt”, but “graze”: the horny plates in the mouth pass only small crustaceans, which the animal draws in together with water, and then throws out the excess liquid. And the sperm whale is a full-fledged predator that overtakes and swallows prey, and here, with its slowness, there is no way to do without social skills.

It is much smaller than the largest whales in size. The largest sperm whale caught was a male 20 meters long and weighing no more than 50 tons. Females are much smaller than males. The basis of the diet is not crustaceans and small fish, like whales, but mainly squids, including giant ones, which are often not much inferior to sperm whales in size (their length with tentacles is up to 18 meters).


So, summing up what has been written, we will draw up a summary table (so all the nuances are more clearly visible), in which we will indicate the difference between these sea giants.

Whale Sperm whale
Maximum length33 meters20 meters
Maximum weight190 tons50 tons
FoodSmall crustaceans, small fish, small cephalopodsSquids (including giant ones), fish (no more than 5 percent of the diet)
LifestyleAlone or in small herdsIn huge herds of up to several hundred individuals, only very old sperm whales, unable to hunt, swim alone in group
Maximum speed at short distances50 km / h37 km / h
Migration speed30-35 km / h10 km / h
Diving depthAbout 500 metersUp to 2.5 - 3.5 km

In human life, the roles of whales and sperm whales also differ. Their common industrial resource is blubber (fat melted from animal carcasses, which was previously used in leather dressing, lighting, and sometimes eaten), leather and meat. Among whales, in addition, the so-called whale whiskers are popular - horny plates that filter the water and do not let large food into the larynx. It is used in the manufacture of souvenirs, as well as in the manufacture of furniture and clothing. And from the carcasses of sperm whales, ambergris (a wax-like substance found in the digestive tract) and spermaceti (fatty wax from the head of an animal) are extracted, which are widely used in perfumery.

Having figured out what is the difference between a whale and a sperm whale, it is impossible to confuse them. Although the largest whales are larger than the largest sperm whales, there are real "midgets" among the whales (though from the point of view of the whales). For example, the dwarf whale that lives in Antarctica and subantarctic waters. Its length does not exceed six and a half meters, and its weight is three and a half tons.