Killer whales (also known as Orca whales) are one of the most well-recognized animals in the world and are easily spotted by their large size and distinct black and white color pattern. Ii is also the largest animal in the dolphin family. They have long, rounded bodies with large dorsal fins at the middle of their backs. Their black bodies are marked with white patches on the underside and near the eyes. The average male Orca grows to 23 feet long and weighs 7 to 10 tons, while females average 21 feet long and weigh 4 to 6 tons.
Killer whales are massive cetaceans that reside all over the planet. They typically reside in waters of depths of 65 to 196 feet.Orca also favor cold waters, although they frequently remain in temperate locations, too. They can go into almost any marine habitat, and some have been seen in coastal canals and river mouths.
Killer whales are top level predators in the ocean and are the largest predator of warm-blooded animals alive today. They use echolocation (bouncing sound off of objects to determine their location) to hunt, and use a series of high pitched clicks to stun prey. Orcas feed on fish, squid, birds, and marine mammals. Killer whales often work in groups and work together to catch a meal. Sometimes they will beach (slide out of the water and onto the shore) to scare seals or penguins into the water where other whales are waiting to feed.
Orca whales have multiple partners in a single season. Males reach sexual maturity at around 13 years of age, while females reach it between 6 to 10 years of age. However, females mate until they are around 14 to 15 years. In nature, males cannot mate until they achieve the size and strength enough to compete with other individuals of their species. Females can become ready for mating several times a year, so there is no regular pattern in the reproductive aspect of killer whales. In captivity, it has been observed that some males may court the females ready for mating up to ten days and may even mate with already pregnant females.
As a highly social species, Orcas require an effective communication system. They have a compact tissue in the nasal region that produces a sound that is loud, tuneful, and sharp. Killer whale pods (a group of Orcas) have a very complex communication system that most components of it have not been deciphered yet by researchers. However, experts have concluded that each seperate pod has it's own distinct sound, meaning that each Orca can recognize their own group.
Orcas are considered to be the second most widely ranging mammal after humans. Despite this, they face many dangers and threats from both natural and human interference. In certain parts of the world, Killer whales are not finding enough food to eat due to over-fishing, habitat destruction, and disease. Chemical and noise pollution also effect them tremendously. They are very vulnerable to oil spills , and noise from recreational boating and water sport activities force the Orcas to alter their behaviors and how they communicate with each other. Lastly, and argumentatively the most threatening, are live captures of these creatures. Whether it be for performing tricks for fish, or making money off of their fins and skin, Orcas are victims to harsh capturing.