I won’t lie. My inspiration for this post is my obsession with this season’s Top Chef, set in Seattle, WA (Bye, Kristen! I was very sad you went home). Anyway, here is a list of some captivating facts about the dominating marine mammal (the last one is the most important!).
- The killer whale, or orca, is a toothed whale and a kind of dolphin – in fact, it’s the largest of all the dolphins!
- Their Latin name, Orcinus orca, means ‘Greek god of the underworld’.
- Male orcas can average up to 22 feet in length and can average up to 12,000 pounds.
- Female orcas can average up to 19 feet in length and can average up to 8,000 pounds.
- Newborn orcas average up to 8 feet in length and weigh up to 400 pounds.
- Orcas typically swim to speeds of 3 to 4 miles per hour, but can reach speeds of 30 miles per hour.
- Female orcas give birth on average every three years after age 13. Some may average giving birth every ten years.
- The dorsal fin of the male orca is the tallest of all the whales! It can be up to 6 feet high. Their dorsal fin will not be at full height until 12-20 years.
- Female orcas live to be 90 years old, while male orcas live to be about about 50 years.
- Orcas are known for excellent eyesight above and below the surface of the water.
- Orcas are common to the Arctic and Antarctic waters, but are found in every ocean around the world.
- Orcas eat up to 500 pounds of prey (e.g., fish, walruses, seals, sea lions, penguins, squid, sea turtles, sharks, as well as other types of whales) a day. They live and hunt in cooperative and playful pods forming packs – they’ve even picked up the nickname ‘wolves of the sea’.
- Orcas do not chew their food. They use their teeth for ripping and tearing prey, but most often swallow their prey whole. Their teeth are up to 3 inches long!
- Orcas have a gray area behind their dorsal fin, known as the ‘saddle patch’, that are unique to each whale.
- There are only 86 orcas left in the Pacific Northwest’ Puget Sound population. This population is threatened with extinction due to pollution, climate change and food shortages. You can sign a petition with Change.org to help keep orcas on the Endangered Species Act (Well, you can sign until January 27, 2013).
Image (c) nmfs.noaa.gov