Saturday, August 21, 2010

Sperm Whale Eating Squid

I had been following a pod of sperm whales off the north coast of the island of Faial in the Azores and dived with one young male about 6 to 7 metres in length. I saw him again four hours later and as I entered the water, I realized that he was eating something.
He certainly had a mouthful as a large squid mantle overhung both sides of his lower jaw. This was my fifth year of diving with sperm whales in the Azores but my first opportunity to observe a whale eating first hand.
He firstly swam past with the meal firmly clamped in his jaws, but then rolled over and swam underneath me as he began to consume the squid. It wasn't exactly an elegant process. Firstly he had to disgorge the squid which was lodged in his throat and then he chewed it with convulsive motion. The water was soon littered with bits and pieces of left-over squid but at least he seemed to enjoy the meal.
My colleague, Wade Hughes has put in some internet legwork and a view from a number of scientists is the meal was a Dana Octopus Squid (Taningia danae), one of the larger species which grows to 2.3 metres.


  1. What a great shot ! love your web Site ! Tony Toledo S.Fremantle WA

  2. Love the photos, randomly got a whale kick this evening after reading an article on Pacific Grey's odd migrations. A stat about how many 1000's of miles they'd traveled in just days got me thinking about Sperm Whale's dive times and how ridiculous I remember them being. :( I hope to someday get the chance to see one live like this... Anyway, great pictures, I'm jealous :)

    Bryan L.- NC

  3. Sorry to double post, but I would be interested in hearing your thoughts/observations of how they move through the water. It's hard for me to visualize, with any concrete sense of reality, what they'd look like trying to turn 180* or the lugubrious task, I imagine it must be, for them to fixate and chase prey.They're beautiful in their absolute awkwardness, just behemoths with almost no dorsal or pectoral fins to aid them, it's incomprehensible to me how they managed to survive given, that in my mind, they just have size and massive durability as their strengths.

    Bryan L. -