Killer Whale or Orca – Orcinus orca

Killer Whale Dolphin species Canary Islands Orcinus orca Tenerife Gran Canaria Whale watching Atlantic Ocean Canaries Fuerteventura Lanzarote La Palma La Gomera El Hierro
Killer Whale or Orca – Orcinus orca
Mother and Calf.

The Killer Whale, also known as the Great Killer Whale (to differentiate it from the small killer whale), Orca, actually belongs to the family of dolphins (Delphinidae) and is therefore part of the infraorder of whales (Cetacea). Orcinus orca was first described by Linnaeus in 1758.

Although individual animals sometimes show strong differences, a division into several species and subspecies could not be established so far. However, the results of a study done in 2010 strongly support a subdivision. However, a formal initial description has not yet taken place.

Description, Anatomy & Characteristics

The Killer Whale is the largest species in the family of dolphins. While males become up to 9,80m long, it is “only” 8,50m with females. So far a maximum weight of 6.6t has been recorded for a 7.65m long bull.

The length of the fin is up to 1.80m, the flippers are up to 2m long and the fluke can be up to 2.8m wide.

A very characteristic feature of Orcinus orca is its colouring. The back and flanks are black, while the belly is white. It also has a white spot behind the eye and a white area on the flanks, just behind the centre of the body. There is a greyish spot behind the fin. Researchers can distinguish individual individuals both by the pigmentation of the grey spot and by the shape of the fin.

Habitat, Distribution & Occurrence

The Killer Whale occurs worldwide, in almost all seas and oceans. However, it is to be seen rather rarely in tropical waters. Most animals can be found in the North Pacific, North Atlantic and the polar seas.

Killer Whale Orcinus orca Map Distibution
Map with the distribution area.
By, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

Killer Whales like to be close to the coasts. In the course of the climate change one could observe that they advance ever further north. These regions were previously inaccessible due to the ice cover.

When scuba diving in the Canary Islands it is almost impossible to see Orcinus orca as it is already rare around the Canaries.

Biology & Feeding

As diverse as the appearance of the Killer Whale, is also its way of life. To explain everything here is currently beyond my time frame. Who needs more information will find it in the sources!

The Orca forms groups between 5 and 70 animals.

They stand at the end of the food chain and feed accordingly on relatively large prey animals. Over 140 species of fish, marine mammals, birds, cephalopods and sea turtles are known to be hunted by Orcinus orca. They use different, sometimes complex strategies.

Sources & Links

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