Properties and architecture of the sperm whale skull amphitheatre

Parvez Alam, Shahrouz Amini, Maryam Tadayon, Ali Miserez, Anusuya Chinsamy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The sperm whale skull amphitheatre cradles an enormous two-tonne spermaceti organ. The amphitheatre separates this organ from the cranium and the cervical vertebrae that lie in close proximity to the base of the skull. Here, we elucidate that this skull amphitheatre is an elastic, flexible, triple-layered structure with mechanical properties that are conjointly guided by bone histology and the characteristics of pore space. We contend that the amphitheatre will flex elastically to equilibrate forces transmitted via the spermaceti organ that arise through diving. We find that collisions from sperm whale aggression do not cause the amphitheatre to bend, but rather localise stress to the base of the amphitheatre on its anterior face. We consider, therefore, that the uniquely thin and extended construction of the amphitheatre, has relevance as an energy absorptive structure in diving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-51
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Dec 2016

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