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Rare sight off Newport this week: killer and sperm whales

Two species of whales not typically seen in this area were spotted off the coast of Newport Beach this week.

Ryan Lawler, owner of whale-watching company Newport Coastal Adventure, said he saw a pod of sperm whales about 15 miles offshore Monday and killer whales about two miles out Tuesday while he was on his boat.

Sperm whales hadn't been seen off the Orange County coast since late 2014, Lawler said.

"The sperm whale pod was definitely on the move and was seen the following day off Carlsbad," he said.

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Lawler called the killer whales he saw "transient types" that roam without a fixed destination. He said they were likely in the area looking for food.

This is the first time killer whales have been seen off Orange County since early 2015, he said.

Sperm whales, known for their massive heads and prominent rounded foreheads, have the largest brain of any creature that has ever lived on Earth, according to the national Marine Mammal Laboratory. They are typically 49 to 59 feet long and weigh 35 to 45 tons.

The whale's head holds large amounts of an oily substance called spermaceti that may help the whale alter its buoyancy so it can dive deep and rise again, experts say.

The distinctive black and white killer whales, also called orcas, are hunters that actually are members of the dolphin family. They are typically 23 to 32 feet long and weigh up to 6 tons.

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Hannah Fry, hannah.fry@latimes.com

Twitter: @HannahFryTCN

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