Sperm Whale Feeding on Squid
It's rare to see or photograph sperm whales eating. Most photographs have been obtained with remote cameras suspended at great depth seeking images of a battle royal with the giant squid Architeuthis.
We had been following a pod of sperm whales along the north coast of Faial and Pico. I had photographed this young male several hours earlier. It was 5:30 pm and the sun's angle was getting too low for good photography.
As I swam down, I noticed something unusual about his jaw. I was looking into the sun and coud not see clearly but I thought his jaw was broken and hanging down. I dove down to his depth and then could see the wings of a squid hanging across his lower jaw.
This was the first time in around 500 encounters that I have seen a sperm whale bring food to the surface - it is usually consumed at depth.
Researchers have advised that the squid may be a Tanginia danae. Whilst not in the same league as the giant squid Architeuthis, Tanginia still grows to around 2.3 metres. This young male was around 7-8 metres.
Research on the diet of sperm whales in the Azores has been undertaken by Malcolm Clark et al. The stomach contents of 17 whales (15 male, 2 female) killed between 1981 to 1984 were examined.
The results showed a diet predominantly consisting of squid with 12 species identified by flesh and 40 species by beaks. The study concluded that 77% of food was obtained by swimming through slow-moving neutrally buoyant squids and 23% by chasing larger swimming cephalopods including the giant squid Architeuthis.
Whale Snack Leftovers
This piece of the mantle of a giant octopus was left in the wake of a foraging pod of sperm whales.