Special to CNN
[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/OPINION/06/18/heenahan.oil.spill.whales/tzleft.heenehan.courtesy.jpg caption="The whales' deep water habitat in Gulf severely threatened by the BP oil spill" width=300 height=169]
Our need for oil almost wiped out the sperm whale once, and now our insatiable hunger for it threatens them again.
Sperm whales were hunted in the Gulf of Mexico in the 18th and 19th centuries for their oil, but were somewhat spared when petroleum replaced whale oil as an energy source. Now, instead of hunters, the same oil that helped to save the sperm whales from extinction threatens their survival in the Gulf.
Sperm whales, listed as endangered in 1970, are social animals. The young live with their mothers for years in stable groups, and the whales dive deep in search of food. Because they spend so much of their lives undersea, our knowledge of their behavior and community structure is limited. We have a lot to learn before we can say we truly know these animals.
Filed under: Gulf Oil Spill
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