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Whalers once believed that the oily fluid was sperm, but scientists still do not understand the function of spermaceti. History at your fingertips. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:. There are conflicting opinions as to how ambergris emerges from the whale. It is a prohibited item.
The chunky object, Wilman learned, was probably a valuable piece of ambergris, which comes from the digestive tract of the sperm whale and is a very expensive ingredient in luxury fragrances such as Chanel No. Estimates vary widely regarding the present population of sperm whales. Today sperm whales are protected, and the population is close to ,, with 2, found in California waters. Young adult males will leave female-led pods and form bachelor herds until they are able to compete in mating at about 20 years old.