How do sperm whales defend their young?

Discover how these cetaceans form a protective barrier between vulnerable pod members and potential threats like orcas

As well as being the largest toothed whale and one of the deepest diving mammals on the planet, the sperm whale also has the largest brain of any animal known to have lived, which explains their rather intelligent behaviour. Female sperm whales and their calves live in pods of around 15-20 members, while males tend to roam into cooler waters alone. The pods take good care of their young and are known to defend weaker or younger members from predators such as killer whales on the prowl near the group. Sperm whales exhibit an unusual form of communal defence – a manoeuvre known as the marguerite formation. If a member of the pod appears vulnerable or weak, the rest of the pod will encircle it. With heads in and flukes (tails) out the group forms a flower-shaped arrangement at the surface in order to shield the weak whale.


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