What animal was named for semen


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The largest of all the toothed whales (odontocetes), the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) was a misunderstood leviathan by whalers. The head of a sperm whale is huge, taking up one-third of the animal’s body. Though the whale has the largest brain of any animal ever, that is not the reason for the large head. Inside the head of sperm whales is a massive organ containing a white, milky fluid. When whalers slaughtered the whales centuries ago, they incorrectly thought that the waxy, white substance was semen. Whalers called the large organ containing this white substance the “spermaceti organ” and the fluid was called “sperm oil.”

Today, scientists know that the fluid has nothing to do with reproduction. However, the exact use for spermaceti is unknown. Several theories have been proposed, but none of them have been proven correct. The main belief is that the huge spermaceti organ helps with buoyancy and echolocation, however, researchers have not conclusively determined.

What is the purpose of the sperm oil? Maybe it is your “white whale” of a calling to uncover the answer.