The Whales

orca whale

With its striking black and white coloring, the orca, or killer whale is a well-known denizen of sea parks and aquariums. 

In the wilds of the ocean this toothed whale is known for being a fast and skillful hunter with a complex social structure.  Though this “wolf of the sea” can be fierce and an organized hunter they are not known to attack humans in the wild. 

Orca males can grow to 32 feet (9.6 meters) long while females reach only 23 feet (8.2 meters) long. 

Orca Whale 

11" Long x 4.5" High
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A distinctive feature is the dorsal fin, which in males can reach 6 feet (1.8 meters) high and is shaped like an isosceles triangle.  On an immature male or female the dorsal fin is 3 feet (.91 meters) high with a slight curve.  Behind the fin is a gray-white “saddle”. Scientists identify individuals of the much-studied orca using these features together with any nicks, cuts, or scars. 

They have 46 to 50 conical teeth, which point slightly backward.  Upper and lower teeth interlock, to aid in gripping and tearing prey.  Depending on the geographic area they inhabit, pods (groups) will feed on a variety of animals including: sea lions, elephant seals, harbor seals, porpoises, squid, sharks, fish, penguins, beluga, narwhal and even large whales such as the gray whale. 

Orcas have no natural enemies and have not been hunted as much as other whales.  Studies show that as top-of-food-chain animals they face significant threat from man-made chemicals.  Declining fish stocks also cause a decline in seals and sea lions, the primary prey of transient orcas.




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