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Body fat and condition in sperm whales, Physeter macrocephalus, from southern Australian waters

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-16, 14:02 authored by Evans, K, Mark HindellMark Hindell, Thiele, D
Blubber thickness (n=102) and lipid content (n=37) were measured in sperm whales from three mass stranding events on the west and north-west coasts of Tasmania, Australia in February 1998. Blubber thickness was highly variable, ranging from 43.0 to 168.0 mm (mean 98.4±18.4 mm) while lipid fat content, also highly variable, ranged from 16.19 to 89.34% (mean 49.2±17.9%). Blubber thickness was significantly and positively related to total length, but a blubber thickness index based on the residuals of this relationship was not related to age, sex or reproductive condition. No relationship was found between blubber thickness index and blubber lipid content, indicating that blubber thickness may not provide a comprehensive indication of body fat condition in sperm whales when only measured at a single site. Blubber lipid content was not related to total length, age or sex. Blubber lipid content was stratified vertically throughout the blubber layer, suggesting that the inner blubber layer may be a more active site for lipid deposition and mobilisation, while the outer blubber layer may serve in a structural or thermoregulatory role. The social structure and foraging ecology of this species may serve to minimise the need to rely on stored energy reserves to meet reproductive energy requirements. In addition, the broader role of blubber for structural, buoyancy and insulative functions coupled with high individual variability may cause a lack of obvious relationships between these variables and body size, age, sex and reproductive state in this species. © 2003 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.


Publication title

Comparative Biochemistry and Physiology Part A - Molecular & Integrative Physiology










Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Science Inc

Place of publication


Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Marine biodiversity

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    University Of Tasmania