The Orca In Detail :
- PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION The general body shape of a killer whale is roughly cylindrical but tapering at both ends. This characteristic fusiform shape is quite energy efficient for swimming. Compared to other body shapes, this body shape creates less drag (the opposing force an object generates as it travels through water).
- COLOUR Killer whales are black and white, with a gray patch called a “saddle” or a “cape” on the back, just behind the dorsal fin.
The large areas of black and white are distinctly separate. The entire dorsal (top) surface and pectoral flippers are black except for the gray saddle. The ventral (bottom) surface, lower jaw, and undersides of the tail flukes are mostly white. The undersides of the tail flukes are fringed with black. An oval, white “eyespot” is just above and slightly behind each eye. The size and shape of a killer whale’s white areas and gray saddle vary greatly among ecotypes. Conspicuous eye and saddle patches may help killer whales in groups coordinate social interactions, hunting, and swimming in formation.
- FINS AND FLUKES A killer whale’s forelimbs are adapted for swimming. A killer whales uses its rounded, paddlelike pectoral flippers to steer and, with the help of the flukes, to stop. Pectoral flippers have the major skeletal elements of the forelimbs of land mammals, but they are shortened and modified. The skeletal elements are rigidly supported by connective tissue. Blood circulation in the pectoral flippers adjusts to help maintain body temperature.The pectoral flippers of male killer whales are proportionately larger than those of females. A large male killer whale may have pectoral flippers as large as 2 m (6.5 ft.) long and 1.2 m (4 ft.) wide. A female’s pectoral flippers are significantly smaller.
A killer whale’s pectoral flipper contains 5 digits much like the fingers on a human hand.
- LENGTH AND WEIGHT
Adult male killer whales are larger overall than their female counterpart including features such as pectoral flippers, dorsal fins, tail flukes, and girth. The largest recorded male killer whale was 9.8 m (32 ft.) in length and weighed 10,000 kg (22,000 lbs.) The largest recorded female was 8.5 m (28 ft.) and weighed 7,500 kg (16,500 lbs.).
In order to maintain their energy killer whales will feast on small aquatic life forms such as fish, squid and octopus as well as larger marine animals such as sea lions, seals, marine birds, penguins, whales, dolphins and even sharks.