Killer Whale

Orca The Killer Whale

The biggest member of the dolphin family is the killer whale. It has white patches behind each eye. Killer whales can be identified, with black colouration on the top and white colouration on the bottom and also by its size. Killer whales are carnivorous, but there is no record of harming any human to date. In the 21st century, whales are captivated and trained as performers for entertainment. This human activity seems to disturb the ecological cycle. Killer whales travel and live in small groups called pods. Killer whales live distributively across the oceans. They communicate with the help of echolocation, and it also helps them to hunt prey. It feeds on big tuna, salmon, squid, sea lions, porpoises, and seals. It can be found from the waters off Newfoundland in the North Atlantic and Labrador to Iceland. Killer whales are seen from the coasts of Argentina, South Africa, in the Southern Hemisphere.  


What is an Orca?

An ambiguous relationship exists between normal whales and killer whales. The taxonomy of the killer whale is clear, both at the genus level and the family level. Pygmy killer whales, Risso dolphins, and pilot whales are pseudo killer whales and are thought to be their relatives. Killer whale names were assigned to more than 20 species of whales. Amongst them, only Orca is the original one. Two separate populations with different feeding habits have been discovered by scientists. After studying the physical appearance and analyzing their genes, it is discovered that their morphological characteristics are also different. The earliest fossil of killer whales was found in Italy. It was a small 4-meter long mammal, looking similar to a dolphin. The killer whales are among few non-human animals, to recognize themselves in the mirror. They are highly intelligent. Unlike human beings the killer whales also experience menopause. The evolution of the killer whales took place at the beginning of the Miocene epoch. 


What is a Killer Whale?

A toothed whale that belongs to the biggest dolphin family is a killer whale or Orca whale. Killer whales have a typical diet depending on their pods. Whales with long teeth prey on seals and seabirds, whales with small teeth or worn teeth prey on small fishes. Whales use echolocation but in some cases, it does not work. Since they breed with different pods their communicating languages are also different. Sometimes whales become a part of the water park and also encounter fishermen. This causes a disturbance in their ecological cycle and living. Different cultures of killer whales behave differently. The killer whales can be extremely friendly in the water parks and be the wildest at deepest inside the sea. A particular pod follows a particular vocal communication and hunting technique and passes it to its generation. These whales can be wild and ferocious due to habitat loss and prey depletion.


Killer Whale Appearance

The largest killer whale female attains the length of 8.5 meters, while males attain 10meters. Males have 2 meters long flippers that cover 20 % of the body length, and it is 1 meter wide, including large appendages. Females flippers cover 11 to 13 % of the body length. Old male whales have long dorsal fins of 1.8 meters. Females and younger male whales have shorter dorsal fins. Males have straight dorsal fins while females have sickle-shaped dorsal fins. Killer whales have the largest brain amongst all the dolphins. An average male killer whale weight is 9800 kg. Their brain weight is 5.6 kg. Killer whales have a set of 40 interlocking teeth in the jaws with enormous muscle covering their mouth opening. Their long teeth are 10cm in length and 4cm in width. Killer whales also experience menopause, like human beings. 

[Image will be Uploaded Soon]


Killer Whales Habitat 

Killer whales are spotted at different locations in the sea. Along the Alaska coast, in the North Pacific, off the coast of Baja California, British Columbia, and Washington, many whales are spotted. They can be found in the waters of Newfoundland, Iceland, Norway, and the British Isles in the northern hemisphere. In the southern hemisphere, they are spotted in the water of New Zealand, Galapagos Island, South Africa, and Argentina. Killer whales move around in a group of 40. They are together known as pods. Within the population of British Columbia and Washington, two kinds of pods are discovered, resident pod and transient pods. This differentiation is mainly due to their different diet and sound productions. Resident pods eat fishes, and Transient pods feed on seals and sea birds. Whales have the power to communicate with each other through echolocation. Whales are highly intelligent sea creatures. 


Killer Whales Adaptation 

One of the interesting adaptations is that Killer whales experience menopause-like human beings. The reason for the whales to face menopause is to increase the mortality rate. To stop the mother whales from giving birth simultaneously with the younger whales. To catch prey, killer whales can swim very fast at a speed of 30m per hour. Killer whales have a set of 40 interlocking teeth with enormous muscle covering their mouth opening. Their long teeth are 10cm in length and 4cm in width, which helps them to catch prey easily. They are intelligent creatures and breed with other pods to prevent intermittent breeding. They can hold their breath inside deep water for 1 to 4 minutes. Its body helps the windpipe to collapse to prevent the lungs from absorbing nitrogen internally. Their body can tolerate higher amounts of nitrogen than human beings. Killer whales also use echolocation for finding prey and communication amongst themselves.  


Killer Whales Diet

Killer whales are at the top of their food chain and are called Apex predators. Killer whales feed on fishes, squids, seals, sea birds, and even species bigger than them. They are the only mammals that feed on white sharks. Killer whales are carnivorous but have no record of harming any human being. Since these whales are highly intelligent they produce high waves along the coast. These waves wash seals and sea birds off the coast and become whale food. The killer whales also intentionally beach themselves to catch prey on shores. A whale tightly grips the food with the mouth and shakes it fast to make smaller pieces of it. This technique helps them to swallow their large foods. A killer whale's diet also depends on its teeth. If the teeth are sharp, they hunt for seals and sea birds. If the teeth are worn out they prey on small fishes. 


Killer Whales Reproduction

Every individual whale gives birth to a single child. They start giving birth from the age of 13 and 14. The baby whales remain with their mother. The babies nurse for at least one year. If the babies are premature, they die in the first month after birth. For 25 years only females can breed unless they reach 40 years old. Every individual can reproduce only 4 to 6 offspring in their life cycle and in one matrilineal group every whale follows the same dialect. They will breed with other pods to prevent intermittent breeding, and this dialect is followed by every whale of a pod. Male killer whales mature at the age of 12 to14 years. Very less is known about their encounter with mating. At an early stage, it is difficult to differentiate between a female and a younger male. A male killer whale becomes fully grown at the age of 20 when the tall dorsal fins and droopy flukes become prominent. 


Conclusion

Killer whales or Orca whales are unique creations of this nature. These whales cover most of the part of the oceans from North to South. It has no records of harming humans to date. The killer whales can be extremely friendly in the water parks and be the wildest at deepest inside the sea. Unlike humans, these whales die out of stomach ulcers, skin disease, heart disease, and respiratory disorder. They have some similar features, unlike humans. Confrontation with a fisherman is also the reason for their death. Human beings are a threat to Orcas. The ocean water should be kept clean for these wild lives.    

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

1) Why are Killer Whales Called “The Wolves of the Sea”?

Ans: An archipelago in the south of Iceland, a massive, blackfin pierces through the waves, off the coast of Vestmannaeyjar with fountains of seawater in the air. Under the water, a pod of blackfish calls out each other in a rhythmic manner and unique language. Sea world pledged to permanently prohibit killer whale training. In March 2016, a trainer died from its attack, and hence the practice of training killer whales is prohibited. People will experience the wolves of the sea from the wilds henceforth. In the middle of the 20th century, the killer whale population decreased in the North-East Atlantic due to overfishing in those areas. Taming a wild creature for human entertainment had killed a lot of Killer whales. Their unique diet also explains their grouping system and communication techniques. Hence it is worth calling the killer whales, the wolves of the sea.

2) What are the Interesting Facts about Orca?

Ans: Some interesting facts about killer whale sis as follows:

  • Killer whales are not whales. They are dolphins and received such names due to their large size and hunting behaviour. They also prey on whales. 

  • Killer whales prefer cold water but yet they live in both the North pole and South pole. These whales love travelling long distances with their pods. A pod travelled from Alaska to Central California once. 

  • The whales travel in pods. Each pod contains from 5 members to 100 members maximum. 

  • The killer whales are highly intelligent and became a part of human entertainment. They can be easily trained. 

  • Killer whales use distinctive noises and communicate with their pod members underwater. 

  • Orca whales are carnivores yet follow a unique and diverse diet. Killer whales never prey on humans. They have records of eating Leopard Sharks, Great white sharks, and moose.

  • Unlike humans, whales have five digits. It has a finger projection. 

3) How Long is the Killer Whale?

Ans: Killer whales are massive and are the biggest in the dolphin family. Their weight is 6 tons and is 16 to 32 feet long, like a school bus. A male killer whale size is bigger than a female killer whale. Male killer whales are 10 meters long while females are 8.5 meters long. Flippers cover 20 percent of the male body and 11 to 13 percent of the female body. At an early stage, it is difficult to identify between young males and females. Old male whales have long dorsal fins of 1.8 meters. Females and younger male whales have shorter dorsal fins. Males have straight dorsal fins while females have sickle-shaped dorsal fins. Male killer whales type A that are found in the Antarctic is 30feet long making them the biggest amongst all. The smallest is the Ecotype c, where adult females are 5.2 meters, and adult males are 5.6 meters long.  

4) Briefly Explain the Physical Structure of a Whale?

Ans: To swim, killer whales use their forelimbs. To steer easily in the sea a whale uses their rounded pectoral flippers that look like a paddle. They use fluke to stop their movement. The land mammals have major skeletal elements of forelimbs which are modified and shortened. The connective tissues firmly support the skeletal structure. Male killer whales have big pectoral flippers than females. A male pectoral flipper is 2 meters long, and 1.2 meters wide. The flippers have 5 bones, much similar to human fingers. The tail contains two lobes called a fluke. These are tough, flat, dense fibrous connective tissues. It has no cartilage or any bones. A large male has a fluke of 2.75 meters long and is very curved. Arteries of both the flipper and flukes are surrounded by veins that help to maintain the body temperature. The dorsal fins may have some irregularity in their shape. It may be curvy, wavy, twisted, or bent.