Killer Whale

Scientific Name

Orcinus orca
Also Called: Orca

Description

The killer whale is actually not a whale. It is the largest member of the dolphin family. Killer whales have a very distinctive black and white coloration. They are black on their upper surface with a while spot behind each eye. They are white on their lower surface. Male killer whales have straight, tall (up to 6 foot) dorsal fins while females have shorter (3 foot) sickle shaped dorsal fins. Killer whales have 46 to 50 cone-shaped teeth that interlock and are used to tear and grasp. The killer whale shares characteristics with whales, such as breaching, but it also reacts like the smaller members of the dolphin family. For instance, it is capable of spy hopping (a vertical position using its tail to keep it upright) to get a better view of its surroundings.

Food

Killer whales eat fish, squid, sea turtles, sea birds, and other marine mammals including seals and dolphins. Packs of killer whales are capable of killing and eating a blue whale.

Habitat

The killer whale is found in all the oceans of the world. It usually stays in the colder temperature areas.

A killer whale ready for food with his head sticking out of the water

Predators

The killer whale has no natural predators other than man.

Social Structure

Killer whales live their lives in family groups called pods. These pods will range from 5 to 30 animals. These pods are quite stable and can last generations. They consist of an adult male, several breeding females, and various young killer whales. Killer whales hunt as a pack and are able to take down much larger animals.

Birth & Offspring

Female killer whales give birth after a gestation period of one year. The young killer whale is about 7 feet long at birth and will nurse for about 18 months.

Senses

The killer whale uses echolocation (sonar) for navigation under water.

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