/ Animalia / Craniata / Mammalia
/ Physeteridae / Physeter
- Physeter catodon Linnaeus, 1758; Orkney
||Large toothed whale with huge square head
(1/4-1/3 of body length), also 2/3 of way along back distinct dorsal hump with
"knuckles" along spine caudal to this. (B142)
- Male:45-70 tonnes (B142).
- Female: 15-20 tonnes (B142).
- 11-15.2m/36-50ft (D23).
- Female: 11m, rarely 12m; male: 15.8m,
rarely to 18m (B142).
- Neonate:Length about 3.5-4.0m (B142).
- Largest toothed whale.
- Head: large (particularly in adult males), blunt, with
single large blowhole at left anterior limit of snout. Lower jaw very narrow and not
extending forward to anterior limit of snout. Rami of lower jaw fused along much of
length. Dark grey/brownish grey, paler at front of head. Mouth, particularly corners,
white-fringed. Short, ill-defined grooves in throat region.
- Teeth: lower jaw teeth conical, in males large and 20-25
present, in females smaller and fewer. Upper jaw in male up to ten, frequently curved, and
virtually concealed beneath gums.
- Dorsal and flanks dark grey/brownish grey, abdomen paler. Juveniles
overall lighter grey. Skin often appears corrugated or shrivelled.
- Flippers: rounded.
- Dorsal fin: absent. Two thirds of distance along body
triangular/rounded hump present with spinal ridge of "knuckles" caudally behind
- Tail: tail stock has keel along underside. Flukes broad,
triangular, deeply notched, with straight caudal margin. Black.
- Numerous scratches and circular scars on head and anterior body.
|Range and Habitat
||World-wide in deep waters, but not found
close to ice edge (B142).
- British & Irish waters: mainly off edge of continental shelf, at
least 300kg west of British Isles, or near Shetlands and Orkneys, or west of Ireland.
- Seasonal migrations, more extensive in males than in females (B142).
- British & Irish waters: No obvious season to sightings (B142).
- Tropical waters and to lesser extent temperate waters (B51).
- Squid, mainly medium-sized, particularly from families Onychoteuthidae and
- Fish, possible more in inshore waters, e.g. Sebastes, Raja, Lophius,
Feeding Behaviour: --
- Births mainly July to September
- Gestation about 16-17 months.
- Suckling to at least 7.5 years (females), perhaps even 13 years (males).
- Calving interval probably about 5-6 years (South African populations
- Sexual maturity males 18-19 years, females 7-12 years.
- Probably males mate with more than one female (B142).
Swim relatively slowly, cruise average about 5-12 km/hour (B142).
- May be solitary or in groups of up to 50 individuals (B142).
Organisations (UK Contacts):