Humpback Whale vs Sperm Whale: What are the Differences?

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The humpback whale and sperm whale are very similar creatures. They are very similar in that they are closely related in size, they are both carnivores and both live in very similar habitats. Moreover, they both belong to the order Artiodactyla. If you’re not a whale expert, you might not be able to tell the difference between these two gigantic creatures. Let’s explore the main differences between a humpback whale and a sperm whale.

Compare a humpback whale and a sperm whale

Humpback whales differ from sperm whales in size.

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Humpback whale Sperm whale
Scientific name and family Belongs to the Balaenopteridae family Belongs to the Physeteridae family
Cut Length: approximately 48 feet to 62 feet
Weight: 40 to 100 tons
Length: approximately 49 feet to 59 feet.
Weight: 35 to 45 tons
Color They are usually black or gray They are mostly dark gray
Diet They feed mainly on small schools of fish and krill They have a huge range of foods like octopus, colossal squid, etc.
Distribution They have an almost cosmopolitan distribution They also have an almost cosmopolitan distribution

The main differences between a humpback whale and a sperm whale.

The main differences between a humpback whale and a sperm whale are their family, size, appearance, diet, and habitats. Sperm whales are generally smaller than humpback whales. On the other hand, the sperm whale has a general lifespan of 60 years while the humpback whale has a lifespan of 45 to 50 years.

Let’s explore in depth the main difference between these species:

Humpback Whale vs Sperm Whale: Size

Adult humpback whales typically grow from around 48 feet to 62 feet, although longer lengths have been recorded over the years. Interestingly, female humpback whales tend to be slightly longer than males. Baby humps are born around 14 feet long and weigh around 1.5 tons.

Sperm whales grow from 49 feet to 59 feet. The largest and longest sperm whales reach 68 feet and can weigh up to 45 tons. There are special cases of pygmy sperm whales. They are abnormally small sperm whales that are only 11 feet tall and weigh only 900 pounds. It seems like such a small size for a whale but in reality it’s not that small.

Humpback whale vs sperm whale: color and physical appearances

A mother sperm whale and her calf off the coast of Mauritius.
Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales.

Humpback whales are usually black or gray in color, but they have white bellies, fins, and flukes. They have really sturdy bodies and long fins. They also have a bunch of grooves that extend from their lower jaws to their navels. Their dorsal fins are relatively small and vary in shape. Humpback whales are baleen whales and they have no teeth. Instead, they have about 200 to 400 baleen in place of the teeth.

Sperm whales are generally dark gray, but some species are lighter in color. They usually have white on their bellies too. Sperm whales are known as the largest of the toothed whales. They have 36 to 60 teeth in their lower jaw. However, their upper jaw is toothless. The sperm whale has a unique body with a block-shaped head and an S-shaped blowhole located near the front of the head. Instead of a dorsal fin, the sperm whale has a bunch of ridges on its back.

Humpback whale vs sperm whale: diet and diet

Heaviest animals: whales
Humpback whales are carnivores that eat krill.

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Humpback whales and sperm whales are carnivorous in nature.

Humpback whales feed from spring to fall. They have a general diet and focus mainly on schools of fish and krill. Antarctic and northern krill are the favorite species (maybe they are so delicious).

Sperm whales take their diet seriously and dive very deep to hunt for food; they could hunt for over an hour. They feed on different sea creatures like colossal squid, octopuses, giant squids and big fish like sharks. Sperm whales prefer to feast on medium-sized squid anyway.

Humpback whale vs sperm whale: distribution

Humpback whales have a cosmopolitan distribution. However, they are not present in parts of the High Arctic and in some closed seas. These species cannot be located in one place as they live in oceans all over the world. They have the longest migration of any known animal as they travel very long distances each year.

Sperm whales are also one of the most cosmopolitan species. They like icy water and are commonly seen along the coastal waters of southern Australia. They also live in Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Humpback Whale vs Sperm Whale: Reproduction

whale teeth - sperm whale open mouth showing teeth
Female sperm whales reach their sexual maturity at the age of 9 years.

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Humpback whales usually mate and breed during the winter seasons. These species are known for their polyamory as both sexes usually have multiple sexual partners. While adult males peak their sperm and testosterone levels, females go through a process called estrus. Male humpback whales usually follow the female of their choice and are called escorts. The male that is most liked by the female is called the main escort.

Sperm whales are polygynous. Their females reach sexual maturity around 9 years old while the males reach 18 years old. Males have to fight for the right to mate with females, and then they mate with multiple females.

Generally, the sperm whale lives longer than the humpback whale. The sperm whale has a general lifespan of 60 years, while the humpback whale has a lifespan of 45 to 50 years.

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