Killer Whale
Orcinus orca


Other Names: Orca, Great Killer Whale, Grampus

Habitat: Inshore and Offshore

Status: Locally common

Population: Unknown

Threats: Hunting/whaling and habitat destruction

Group Size: 3-25, several pods may meet at social gatherings

Fin Position: Slightly forward of center

Newborns: 7'-8'1/4"(2.1m-2.5m), 395 lb.(180 kg)

Adults: 18'32'1/4"(5.5m-9.8m), 2.6-9 tons

Diet: Fish, mammals, and occasionally squid or octopus

Teeth: 20-26 on top row, 20-26 on bottom row


Description

Dorsal fin (male):

- very tall, up to 6 feet (1.8 m), especially in older males
- may lean forward
- fin varies widely in shape
- often nicks and scars on trailing edge
- shape almost an isosceles triangle
- wavy fin, common in older males (head-on view)
- smaller; more curved dorsal fin than male: up to 35 in (90 cm) long (females)

Flukes:

- white undersides
- distinct notch in middle slightly concave trailing edges
- pointed tips (variable)
- black upper sides of flukes

Flippers:

- large, paddle-shaped flippers grow with age; may measure up to one-fifth of body length in older males (males)
- smaller flippers than male (females)

Skull:

- teeth curve back toward throat
- broad jaw with few, large teeth
- teeth interlock when jaws close

Other characteristics:

- rounded head tapers to point
- conspicuous, elliptical white patch behind each eye
- predominantly jet black body color
- robust, heavy body
- sharp demarcation between white and black areas
- white patch on sides
- white chest
- white chin


Behavior

- inquisitive and approachable
- rarely bow-rides or wake-rides, but breaching, lobtailing, flipper-slapping, and spyhopping are often observed
- other behavior includes beachrubbing; speed-swimming, when most of body leaves water as it surfaces to breathe,; logging, when whole pod faces in same direction; and occasionally dorsal fin slapping, involving a sudden roll onto one side to slap fin onto water's surface
- can travel at up to 34 mph (55 km/hour)
- blow often visible in cool air, when it is low and bushy


Distribution

- all oceans of the world, particularly in the polar regions
- one of the most wide-ranging mammals on earth, though distribution is patchy
- seen more often in cooler waters (especially polar regions) than in the tropics and subtropics
- sighting range from surf zone to open sea, though usually within 500 miles (800 km) of shoreline
- large concentrations may be found over continental shelf
- generally prefers deep water but is often in shallow bays, inland seas, and estuaries (but rarely in rivers)
- readily enters areas of flow ice in search of prey
- no regular long migrations, but some local movements according to ice cover in high latitudes and food availability elsewhere
- stranding is rare and usually involves males




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e-mail suggestions or questions to
tmmsn@sci.tamucc.edu

This page was created by:Candice Orca Mottet