This distinctive jet-black, brilliant white and grey marked, huge dorsal finned male makes this animal relatively easy to identify. The head of the Killer whale is conical-shaped. It has an indistinct beak with a conspicuous white oval patch above and behind the eye. It's jaw is broad with relatively few large conical teeth, 10-12 pairs in each jaw, and very powerful muscles to the rear of the upper jaw. These aid the retainment of large prey that would normally resist capture. The
Orca is a versitile predator and has one of the most varied diets of all whales. Although it has been observed feeding upon penguins, seals, porpoise and large baleen whales it's reputation for doing so is probably exaggerated. For most populations of Killer whales the diet appears to be primarily fish such as salmon and cod, and squid.
It's consumption of birds, penguins, sea turtles, seals, and porpoise undoubtedly depends upon local availability.
Despite it's name, the Killer whale has never hurt a person in the wild. It is inquisitive and approachable and aggression within a pod is rare. The pod is a close-knit family group and is stable from one generation to the next. It's members usually stay together for life.
When two or more pods come together temporarily the group is called a
"superpod" and may number more than 150 whales. Usually larger groups split up into two or more smaller ones as the population grows. These groups of closely related pods (clans) often develop their own dialects. More Killer whales live in cooler waters, especially Polar
Regions, than tropical and subtropical regions. They are found in all seas including the Western Mediterranean, Arabian Sea and the Gulf of
Aden. The largest population seems to be in Antarctica where it is estimated some 160,000 animals range.
The name "killer whale" arose from the predatory habits of the species, feeding on baleen whales and other dolphins. Early Spanish whalers referred to this animal as the "whale killer". Through the years, this was transposed to killer whale. Other common names are swordfish, blackfish, Feegee fish, grampus, orca, orc, wolf of the sea mers), tiger of the sea, hyena of the sea, tyrant of the sea, orque
(in French, feminine gender name), épaulard (in French), etc
The black and white coloration of the killer whale is a strategy of camouflage. From above, their dark back blends in with the darker water below them, while from below, their whiter bellies blend in with the sunlit water above. Male killer whales can be up to 30 feet in length, weigh over 8 tons, and have a dorsal fin up to six feet tall.
Females grow to 22 feet, weigh about 4 tons, and have a three-foot dorsal fin. Orcas have 50 teeth, which are conical-shaped and three inches long. (Poncelet).
Over time, the population of killer whales is decreasing. Why is that?
Since first being described in the human record, countless generations have revered the killer whale for its strength, speed, and beauty.
Today it is one of the most celebrated marine mammals in the world. In the Pacific Northwest the killer whale is a totem species, symbolizing the freedom and wildness of the marine frontier. But these ideals have drawn more people