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The Killer Whale (Orcinus Orca)

 

Appearance

The killer whale has black and white body. It has
a white eye patch just above its eye. The bottom of its body is white and the
top is black. It has two black pectoral fins under on the sides of its belly, a
black dorsal fin on the top of its body and a fluke at the opposite end of its
head on its body. The killer whale has a sleek oval body shape.

 

Adaptations

The killer whale has a variety of
adaptations that allow it to succeed in its oceanic environment. The killer
whale lives in an ecosystem with the ocean surrounding their environment so
they would need a lot of adaptations to help them live that type of ecosystem.

There are a lot of physical
adaptations of the killer whale to help it succeed in its ecosystem. One
obstacle of having the ocean as the Orca’s home is that it would be very cold
living there. The killer whale has many adaptations to help conserve its body
heat. Like most mammals, killer whales have a thick layer of fat called
blubber  which helps the killer whale
keep its warmth on the inside of its body. Also, they have a high metabolic
rate keep its warmth. The arteries in the killer whales body are surrounded by
veins. The arteries contain the heated blood that goes closer to the core of
the body and the veins contain the cooled blood that is closer to the outside
of the body. The heat from the arteries is transferred into the veins so that
the heated blood can go to the inside and the outside of the killer whales
body. Here is a diagram that also explains this heat transfer:

Description: http://orcaskillerbeauties.delfinweb.org/orcas/he_en.gif

          Heat isn’t just the only adaptation
that the killer whale needs to succeed in its aquatic environment. They also
need some physical adaptations for swimming in the water. For a start, they
need adaptations to help them paddle their way through the water. That is where
their pectoral fins come in to action. The pectoral fins are two fins that are
under the sides of the killer whales body and they help the killer whale steer
and accelerate through the water. If you were to take an x-ray of the pectoral
fin, the bones in it would look similar to bones of a human’s hand: Description: http://www.ridgenet.net/~do_while/sage/images/v10i8g2.gif The dorsal fin can grow up
to six feet and the one that is on the top of the killer whales body. It is
used for stability while it is swimming. The flukes are the two flippers at the
end of its body. They are used for slowing down and stopping.  The image below shows the body parts that
would be on a killer whale (the English translations are in italics)

 

The killer whale is a very good
swimmer and a diver. They can swim up to 45 kilometers per hour, but only for a few seconds.
They usually cruise at around 13 kilometres per hour which they can do for long
periods of time. The killer whale can dive about 100 meters deep. Although the
longest recorded dive by a killer whale was 274.3 meters which was under
experimental purposes. They can dive for as long as from 5 to 15 minutes and
they slow there heart rate when they dive; so less blood is needed to help the
muscles function with very little oxygen.

The killer whale needs to learn how to
conserve oxygen because they cannot breathe under water. They only breathe at
the surface of the water through their single blowhole at the top of their
head. They exhale right before they reach the surface of the ocean and quickly
inhale oxygen when 0their blowhole is above the surface of the ocean and
exposed to air. Killer whales can open and close their blowholes using a
muscular flap. When the blowhole is closed, it is in a relaxed position. To
open their blowhole, they open the muscular flap and breathe in oxygen.

          Killer whales figure out ways for
conserving useful energy underwater.

They are amazingly agile when it comes to
swimming. Their body shape is shaped to help them swim quicker through the
water (aerodynamic). They also ride the ocean waves to save more energy of
paddling with their pectoral fins. The calves of the pod swim close enough to
their mother so they can get the “slipstream” of their mother to help them swim
faster and by doing less work.

To help killer whales hunt, they use
something called echolocation to locate their prey. Echolocation is where they
send some high-frequency pulses or click through the ocean so it can the echo
can bounce off of their prey and return the echo to the killer whale so that
they know that something is up ahead. The killer whale sends these sounds from
the “melon” and they get the echo back in the auditory “bulla”.

 

Physical adaptations are not the only
adaptations the Orca has. It also has some special behavioural adaptations,
too,

Killer whales stay in pods. They use
large pods for hunting schools of fish and large animals (sperm whale, blue
whale etc.) and they use smaller pods to attack and kill marine mammals like
seals. The Orca whales stay in pods so they can protect their young from
getting injured or even killed, even though there are not very many predators
in the ocean to the killer whale (besides humans) since they are the most
feared animal in the ocean.

          Killer whales are able to slow their
heart rates when they are diving. This helps the whale need less oxygen to go
to the muscles of the body so that their muscles can work better with less
oxygen.

Pods of killer whales have their own
call. This helps to call their friends and family when they are in danger or
they found a prey but one killer whale can’t kill it alone.

Killer whales have very complex relationships with other marine animals. They
have been caught harassing but not eating the marine mammals. In a video I have
watched, the killer whales have been caught getting a seal on shore and playing
with it by launching the seal up in the air with their mouths and their fluke
at astonishing heights. You can watch this video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSSiRGIIjbg

          Killer whales have been
known to interact with humans. They have been known to “show off” for them.
They can be taught to do tricks that humans had taught them to do and perform
in shows for an audience with food as a reward.

Not very many people know where the killer
whale migrates, but some studies show that killer whales seem to migrate where
their prey migrates so they can have food during the winter.

 

Reasons for Being Endangered

 

Killer whales have many reasons for being
endangered and almost all of them revolve around one of the only threats to the
killer whale: humans.

Killer whales have lost most of their habitats due
to pollution and loss of food source. Humans have been polluting the oceans
with garbage, oils spills and more and the killer whales cannot live in those
deadly waters.

There is also a reduction of food source in some
areas which causes killer whales to die since they do not have a food source or
because they might have relocated and died along the journey by being tired,
caught in fishing nets and in other situations. The problem also might be that
the killer whales might eat too much that the food in the area decreases, which
in result kills them.

Another problem that is now illegal but still
affected the population of the killer whale is whaling. Whaling is where humans
go out into the waters to kill whales for sport and for blubber and so they can
consume their meat.

Salmon may be the killer whales main food source,
but the problem is that the population of salmon is decreasing which isn’t very
good for the killer whale.

Traumatic events to the killer whales caused by
humans can also bring the population of the Orca whales down. An example of a
traumatic event is that 400 Orca whales experienced and oil spill in the
1990’s. The scientists recorded that there are only 7 whales left and there has
been no sign of reproduction since then.

Another big situation is that the killer whales
are being held in captivity. They are used for shows and are used to be
displayed at zoos. But research show that killer whales die quicker in
captivity than in the wild.

                Humans are pretty much the
ONLY thing that has impacted
this species. The humans used to “whale” for fun which means they got to kill
whales through boats. Luckily, this became illegal in 1986. But now there is a
new problem: pollution. The humans pollute the water which causes the Orca’s to
die or have troubles to reproduce. Another situation is that the killer whale’s
food source population is decreasing because of fisherman or because of the
killer whale eating too much of their food source which makes the population
decrease. So that when they have to move somewhere to get there food source
again, they could die along the way or they might get caught in fishing nets
and get killed by boats.

Scientists have no idea of where the killer whales
go or stay. This means that we do not know where to protect the killer whale’s
habitats. Scientists are trying to figure out where the killer whales homes are
so that they know where to protect the killer whales.

 

Habitat/Ecosystem

 

The killer whales have very interesting habitats
and a pretty demanding ecosystem.

The killer whales usually live near coastal waters
because they like colder temperatures in their water. Some killer whales even
like living near Antarctica! But some prefer to live in warm waters like
Hawaii, Australia and the Galapagos Islands.

Killer whales are the most widely distributed
mammal besides humans and the live in all of the oceans and some of the seas.

The killer whale needs a lot of biotic things in
its ecosystem. A killer whale definitely needs this because the only thing it
eats is meat (carnivore/consumer). Things the killer whale eats are fish,
sharks, squids, marine mammals (whales, seals), turtles, octopi, birds, octopi,
minke whales and penguins. So of course all of these things would need to be in
its ecosystem and more since the animals that the killer whale eats need to eat
as well and so on.

There are also a few abiotic factors the killer
whale needs in its ecosystem. The biggest thing that the killer whale needs
surrounds them their whole life time: water. Without the water the killer whale
would have no use of their fins and they wouldn’t be able to walk around
because they do not have any adaptations to get around on land. Killer whales
also need oxygen because without it they would either suffocate or drown. Orca
whales also like cold temperatures and coastal areas which also count as an
abiotic factor, too.

 

The killer whale depends on many things in its
ecosystem to survive, biotic and abiotic.

It depends on biotic things in its environment
like fish, sharks, squids, marine mammals (whales, seals), turtles, octopi,
birds, octopi, minke whales and penguins to be in their environment so they can
have a food source in their environment. They also need to depend on the food
source of their food source so that their food source wouldn’t move locations
or die.

The killer whale depends on abiotic things like
oxygen and air. The reason it needs oxygen is because any living thing needs to
breathe, including a killer whale. The killer whale would asphyxiate without
any air. It also needs water because it can only move in water which can help a
lot in hunting. If the killer whale lived on land, animals could easily hunt it
down because the killer whale would stay in one spot.

The killer whale would definitely be
able to survive in a jungle ecosystem for very long. There are many things
wrong with a land ecosystem itself for a killer whale.

First of all, the killer whale would
not be able to survive on land because it needs water to move. It has
adaptations like its fins that are meant to be under water so it can be able to
swim. On land, the killer whale won’t be able to move because it has no land
adaptations like legs or arms. This way the killer whale would make an easy
target for carnivores because the killer whale wouldn’t be able to make a quick
getaway or fight back.

The killer whale would have a very big
struggle with getting food because it wouldn’t be able to move to catch its
prey. This way, the killer whale would have a shorter life span.

 

Food Chain

Ecological Niche

Food Chain 1

Food Chain 2

Producer

Algae

Trees

Consumer

Crab

Moose

Consumer

Great Penguin

Killer Whale

Consumer

Killer Whale

Humans

Saving the Killer Whale

 

There is a variety of things the humans can do to
save the killer whale. We could figure out where the killer whale lives so that
we know where their habitat is and we know where to protect.  We could do our best to stop polluting the
oceans so that the killer whale doesn’t die from oil spills and more. We should
be careful with our boats and fishing gear because they have killer a variety of
killer whales.

What has been done and is being done is that by
law, whaling is now illegal since 1986. The government hasn’t given out any
whaling licenses since then.

 

 

Killer Whale Classification

Domain

Eukarya

Kingdom

Animalia

Phylum

Chordata

Subphylum

Vertebrata

Class

Mammalia

Order

Cetecea

Suborder

Odontoceti

Family

Delphinidae

Genus

Orcinus

Species

Orcinus Orca

 

2011 Nov 11

About Orko Oyon

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