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Sperm Whale at the Natural History Museum

Nature volume 139, page 319 (20 February 1937) | Download Citation



THE skeleton of the sperm whale stranded at Bridlington on January 25 has now reached the British Museum (Natural History). The animal from which the skeleton was taken was a male 59 feet in length. In the sperm whale, the male is fully grown at about 65 feet, whereas females have not been recorded exceeding 40 feet in length. The sperm whale or cachalot belongs to the division of the Cetacea known as toothed whales or Odontoceti. The Bridlington animal had thirty pairs of teeth in the lower jaw (all unfortunately removed by souvenir hunters) and three small tooth vestiges on one side of the upper jaw. The whole skeleton weighed between four and five tons, of which weight the skull accounted for more than three tons. The sperm whale is not a common animal in British waters, only about six strandings having occurred in the last twenty-five years. It prefers the warmer tropical and subtropical seas. Sperm whales stranded on British shores are almost invariably large old males, and it has been suggested that they are animals which have been driven out from the main herd by younger and more vigorous bulls. The present stranding is therefore rather remarkable. The Museum is informed by coastguards of all Cetacea stranded on the British coasts, and specimens are obtained whenever desirable and practicable. On an average, there are about sixty such strandings in the year. Stranded whales, being “Fishes Royal,” are the property of the Crown, and are handed over to the Museum by the authorities concerned.

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