|What is this big fish of the sea who sometimes gets mistaken as a shark? Some of you may ask this question and so I will answer. It is actually not a fish, it is a mammal called the Killer Whale. It is also known as the Orca. It is the largest animal in the dolphin family.|
Most Orcas are found in colder climates. The first Killer Whale ever
spotted in the world was found in Southeastern Alaska by a native
American tribe that went out fishing for food. They came back with
exciting news that they found a new species that provides a byproduct
which can be used to make candles for light.
|Killer Whales are known for their black and white skin. They have white under their jaws and the underside of their tails. They also have white oval patches behind their eyes. Orcas snouts and forehead are rounded. The fins on the sides of the Orcas are called pectoral fins which basically means they have fins on the sides of their chests. Females usually grow up to eight yards and 6,835 pounds. Males can grow up to nine yards and weigh up to 8,820 pounds. The flippers (which is the tail) of a Killer Whale are also different between the boy and girl whale. The males flipper grows up to three yards which is 20% of the whales length and females reach about 12% of the whales length. They usually have scars that give them a beastly look because they have fights with their prey and other whales, regardless of size.|
|To the left is a picture of an Orca whale’s dorsal fin. A dorsal fin is the most distinguishing way to tell the male from female. The male's dorsal fin grows up to two yards and the females is a lot smaller than that. The dorsal fin on the male stands higher on the Orcas body than the females does. The male's dorsal fin doesn’t really start growing until age ten and it doesn’t fully develop for another seven years. At that age, however, marine biologists have a hard time distinguishing the two since the female’s dorsal fins have already grown in!|
|“Home is where the heart is” said a famous person and the killer whales agree with the statement. Whales live in groups called pods. A normal pod group is made up of a mother whale, her calf, one or two males, and a female whale that was a past reproducer. Within those two mothers (one that is still reproducing and the one that has stopped) the group of of mammals is made up of closely related mammals. The pods are usually made up of the oldest post-reproductive female. Of all the pods of the killer whales out there, there is seven to seventeen different dialects that the orcas learn. It’s just like how humans first started out with dialect they made noises and stole some of those noises from other groups so on and so forth. Orcas and human beings are alike because they make up their own words and steal some from other groups.|
|Did you know killer whales are almost exactly like us based on maturity levels, they have long life spans just like us. Females live up to be 80 years old while males only live between 50 to 60 years old. Most scientist believe it is due to the robust body the males have to carry through the water all the time. There is great stress on the male to get going at the pace necessary to catch food because their appetite is greater than the smaller female. Around the age of 15 is when whales reach maturity and females reach theirs around 12.|
Female whales are capable of producing five calves (baby orca) over a 25 year period. The babies stay in their mother’s womb between 15 to 17 months. When they're born they stay by their mothers side and drink her milk for two years. Now if the mother was to have another baby before the first baby goes it will probably stay with its mother for a couple more years. Most females stop having their calves between the age of 39 and 55. After they stop having their babies they usually live for another 20 years. If a calf were to die at birth the mother orca will usually produce another baby just like normal and forget about the one that died.
|Killer whales eat a variety of things. They usually eat squids, penguins, sea lions, seals, sea turtles, and fish. Whales never touch manatees and dolphins. They never touch manatees because they live in warm water and dolphins because they are in the same kingdom .They usually hunt in pods. When they see their food or spot activity they change direction quickly and make rhythmic splashes to tell the other whales. To get their food trapped they usually break up and scatter all over the large area then start swimming really fast toward one specimen and charge for it.|
|Most people use the term “Orca” more than using killer whale because it makes them sound friendlier at water parks. Even though there was never a report of a human getting attacked by a killer whale people are still frighten by these massive mammals. Killer whales that are in captivity are easy to train for their curiosity and big brains. There are also down falls to keeping these creatures as pets for a water park. One downfall is that they are bored and isolated. Even though it appears their tank is large to us humans it does not compare to the ocean they are use to living in. They lack social contact because they usually do not have family members in the tank with them. If they give birth in isolation they do not have the experience of having a mother or sibling present. Even though they have trainers it is not like having their true orca family. If these massive creatures were frightened and their trainers are right there then they could be injured or crushed.|
|Killer whales are slowly becoming extinct so people are joining forces to protect these beautiful creatures. Boat tours are being conducted so that people can go out into the natural habitat of these mammals and see them. The whales curiosity bring them to the boats but the people are warned to keep their hands inside to prevent the chance of anyone being bit. Also, it prevents the whales from becoming frightened and running from the boats.|