The idea that a sperm whale can use its massive head as a battering ram to sink ships has been debated at least since Herman Melville's Moby Dick was published in 1851.

But now the idea seems scientifically feasible after all, an Australian-led study has found.

Scientists were dubious about this theory because they thought the oil-filled organs inside the head were too fragile to withstand the force, but the researchers have found inbuilt "shock absorbers" that buffer the impact.

While "whale ramming events" could cause fatal fractures, study lead author Dr Olga Panagiotopoulou's findings showed connective tissue partitions within the sperm whale forehead could act as a protective shock absorber.