Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Marine Mammals: Sperm Whales and Beaked Whales

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The sperm and beaked whales are some of the largest toothed whales, but their offshore lifestyle and long dive times have made their study relatively difficult. Many beaked whale species appear externally similar and several species have only recently been identified. These whales are the basal odontocetes and diverged from the ancestral lineage c. 15-25 Ma. Beaked whales are characterized by the presence of a beak, while sperm whales were named for their spermaceti organ, a fatty structure containing oil thought to resemble semen, used in sound production. Sperm whales and some beaked whales were taken in large numbers during whaling operations in the last centuries. Much of what we know about them stems from study of dead animals, but today live animals are also being studied at sea. Sperm and beaked whales are found in deep water in all oceans. These are some of the deepest mammalian divers, often feeding a kilometer underwater for their squid prey. However, difficulties studying such relatively shy animals mean that, except for the sperm whale, little is known of the social dynamics of most other species. Their most significant threats today are from fisheries, shipping, contaminants, and particularly increasing levels of underwater noise, especially military sonars. © 2009



Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Ocean Sciences
Number of pages8
ISBN (Print)9780123744739
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2010

    Research areas

  • Acoustic, Behavior, Cetacean, Conservation, Diving, Ecology, Mammal, Oceanic, Vertebrate, Whale

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Best practice recommendations for the use of external telemetry devices on pinnipeds

    Horning, M., Andrews, R. D., Bishop, A. M., Boveng, P. L., Costa, D. P., Crocker, D. E., Haulena, M., Hindell, M., Hindle, A. G., Holser, R. R., Hooker, S. K., Hückstädt, L. A., Johnson, S., Lea, M-A., McDonald, B. I., McMahon, C. R., Robinson, P. W., Sattler, R. L., Shuert, C. R., Steingass, S. M. & 4 others, Thompson, D., Tuomi, P. A., Williams, C. L. & Womble, J. N., 4 Oct 2019, In : Animal Biotelemetry. 7, 17 p., 20.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  2. Future directions in research on beaked whales

    Hooker, S. K., De Soto, N. A., Baird, R. W., Carroll, E. L., Claridge, D., Feyrer, L., Miller, P. J. O., Onoufriou, A., Schorr, G., Siegal, E. & Whitehead, H., 25 Jan 2019, In : Frontiers in Marine Science. 5, 16 p., 514.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  3. Sea changes: Whales, krill and human exploitation books-and-arts

    Hooker, S., 14 Jun 2018, In : Nature. 558, 7709, p. 184-185 2 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalBook/Film/Article review

  4. Whales: their past, present and future

    Hammond, P. S., Heinrich, S., Hooker, S. K. & Tyack, P. L., 14 Jul 2017, London: Natural History Museum, London. 192 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportBook

  5. Equity and career-life balance in marine mammal science?

    Hooker, S. K., Simmons, S. E., Stimpert, A. K. & McDonald, B. I., Jul 2017, In : Marine Mammal Science. 33, 3, p. 955-965 11 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 255715230