Moment in nature: Sperm whales

"Sunday Morning" takes us this morning off the coast of São Miguel Island in the Azores, in the company of sperm whales. The footage is by videographer Mauricio Handler.

Sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) are the largest toothed predators on Earth. Males may measure 50 to 60 feet in length, and the sperm whale's brain is the largest of any animal – averaging more than five times the weight of a human brain. 

While their numbers were drastically reduced by the whaling industry in the 19th and 20th centuries, sperm whales are now a protected species, and they reside in all marine regions. But while commercial hunting of them has been banned (though hunting has not been entirely eliminated), they remain threatened by plastic and noise pollution.

Originally settled by Portuguese colonists, the Azores archipelago, located about 900 miles west of Portugal – where our Moment of Nature was recorded – is comprised of volcanic islands that is home to slightly more than a quarter-million people. Its economy is built upon agriculture and viniculture (Madeira is produced on the island of Madeira), fishing, and tourism.

         
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  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.