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Cape Cod and the Islands/Selected article/11

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Cape Cod and the Islands/Selected article/11

The sperm whale, Physeter macrocephalus, is a marine mammal species, order Cetacea, a toothed whale (odontocete) having the largest brain of any animal. The name comes from the milky-white waxy substance, spermaceti, found in the animal's head, due to its resemblance to semen. The sperm whale is the only member of genus Physeter. The synonym Physeter catodon refers to the same species. It is one of three extant species in the sperm whale superfamily, along with the pygmy sperm whale and dwarf sperm whale.

A bull can grow up to 20.5 metres (67 ft) long. It is the largest living toothed animal. The head can take up to one-third of the animal's length. The species feeds on squid and fish, diving as deep as 3 kilometres (9,800 ft), which makes it the deepest diving mammal. Its diet includes giant squid and colossal squid. The sperm whale's clicking vocalization is the loudest sound produced by any animal, but its functions are uncertain.

Over most of the period from the early 18th century until the late 20th century, the sperm whale was hunted to obtain spermaceti and other products, such as sperm oil and ambergris. As a result of whaling, the sperm whale is currently listed as vulnerable by the IUCN.

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