Killer whale - Largest predator of mammals

orca A Killer whale (Orcinus orca) is named 'killer whale', not because it kills humans, but because it kills other whales. They inhabit all oceans, but are most numerous in the Arctic ocean and the Antarctic. Sightings in warm waters are less frequent, but do occur. Killer whales migrate along with other species, on which they hunt, or even pack ice. Despite their beautiful appearance they are not considered an endangered species. Estimates in studies range from 70,000 to 180,000 in the Antarctic.

The killer whale is the largest predator of mammals that exists on earth today. Male killer whales average 5.8 to 6.7 m and weigh between 3,500 and 5,500 kg. Orcas can swim as fast as 48.4 kilometers per hour, making them the second fastest mammal. Toothed whales are social animals, orcas (killer whales) travel in social units called pods, containing one adult male, several adult breeding females and a number of sub-adults of both sexes. Sizes may vary from as few as 4 to as many as 40. There is an occasional exchange of members between pods, especially during breeding season. They have an extremely varied diet, as far as animals living in the oceans are concerned, ranging from fish to birds, seals and even other whales.

Some researchers believe killer whales sleep using only one brain hemisphere at a time.

The orca in the picture is spyhopping, researchers debate its purpose. Some say it is to spot seals or boats. Some say it is part of their tactics when two or more orcas help each other catching seals.

References

Seaworld Infobooks
Orca on Wikipedia

The Killer whale, orca is listed as Conservation Dependent (LR/cd), the focus of a continuing taxon-specific or habitat-specific conservation programme targeted towards the taxon in question, the cessation of which would result in the taxon qualifying for one of the threatened categories below within a period of five years, on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

Namings for the killer whale
A young / baby of a killer whale is called a 'calf'. The females are called 'cow' and males 'bull'. A killer whale group is called a 'gam, pod or herd'.
Some facts about the
Killer whale

Adult weight : 3987.5 kg (8772.5 lbs)

Maximum longevity : 90 years

Female maturity :3780 days

Male maturity : 4930 days

Gestation : 435 days

Weaning : 471 days

Litter size : 1

Interval between litters : 1096 days

Weight at birth : 180 kg (396 lbs)

Mortality rate doubling time : 14 years

Source: AnAge, licensed under CC

More animals beginning with K

Links
Russian Orca - FEROP project dedicated to research on the Orca in Russia

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