Whale Jaw

I chose this specimen as it is the first thing that visitors see as they enter the Museum and I can remember the impact that it had on me as a child when I first visited. I see the same expression of awe on children’s faces every day. Not only does it illustrate the huge size of these animals but also like all specimens, the more you find out about it the more fascinating it becomes and the more you want to learn.

Only the male Sperm Whale has teeth, though no one is entirely sure what they use them for. Most of what we know about these animals has been learnt from hunting them. Entire cities were once lit with their oil and it is so fine that it is still used as a lubricant on the Hubble space telescope. This jaw is from an 88ft specimen; whalers recorded specimens of up to 90ft. No modern Sperm Whale exceeds 65ft, suggesting that humans have fished out the all the genes for large whales. Sperm Whales have the largest brain of any animal and live well into their 80s, and they have complex social lives, which we are only beginning to understand. Between 1712 and the end of the 20th century mankind reduced their population from over a million to an estimated 360,000. The first film of one in its element, underwater, was taken in 1984.

Chris Jarvis, Primary & Family Education Officer