Baturyn Elementary School

The Orca Whale

By Kerri

The Orca, otherwise known as the Orcinus Orca, or the Killer Whale is a mammal. Orcinus comes from Orcus, a Roman God of the underworld.
Some scientists believe that the Orca is smarter than humans. They are very intelligent, and have large brains. Some Alaskan Eskimos still go whaling, which means to kill whales, but scientists have been studying Orcas for over 20 years and in that time period no Orca has ever harmed a human.

Physical Appearance
Orcas can get up to 27-33 feet long when full grown. The female Orca is called a cow, the male is called a bull, and the baby is called a calf. Orcas weigh more than 8000-12000 pounds. Male Orcas are larger than the female. As a toothed whale, they are very efficient predators.
Orcas are black with white patches. They have stocky bodies, and a tall falcate dorsal fin. They also have 2, large, paddle-like flippers. The male has a more upright and taller fin. The male Orcas fin can get up to 6 feet tall, while the females can only get up to 4 feet tall.

They live in tropical to arctic waters, both coastal and deep. Orcas live in small, close-knit, life long pods. Pods can contain 6-40 whales.

As an efficient hunter, they eat a diverse diet of sharks, whales, seals, penguins, dolphins, and more! They are known to attack even large baleen whales and even blue whales. An average sized Orca eats up to 551 pounds a day. Orcas hunt in groups. They do not chew, but they use their teeth to tear apart their prey to share it with other Orcas. Orcas swallow food whole. They hunt together by surrounding prey or sliding onto the sand or ice and grab prey, then use their flippers to crawl back out into the water.

Orcas only have one enemy. Humans. Humans used to go hunting for whales, which is known as whaling. Humans went whaling for blubber and meat. The meat was used for food and blubber is used in most kinds of lipstick. Orcas lives are shortening because of water pollution.

Orcas calves are born from winter to early spring. They are born near the surface and in warm waters. An Orcas gestation period is about 16-17 months. The calf is born tail first which is normal for cetaceans. Orca calves are usually born between March and October. 
Within ten seconds in order to breathe, the newborn swims top the surface with the help  of its mother. After the baby is born, it will take 30 minutes before it knows how to swim. At  birth, the newborn is 2-2.5 metres long, with a weight of at least 400 pounds. Twins are extremely rare. The baby feeds on its mother's milk. A calf stays with its mother for over a year. The female Orca reaches maturity at 6-10 years old, when the male Orca reaches maturity at 12-16 years old.

Orcas are believed to have similar behaviour to wolves,  they are sometimes called the "Wolf of the Sea"! They are one of few types of whales to purposely go up on shore to grab baby sea lions, and then wiggle out to sea on their flippers with the prey tight in their jaws. Then, while out in the sea, it plays with the sea lion before eating it. Orcas like to Spy-hop, and to Breach. Spy hopping is when the Orca pokes its head out of the water to look around. Breaching is when the Orca swims fast to the surface to rise above the water, and then fall onto the surface splashing and making noise.

Why it is Endangered
To Orcas, there is an old threat and a new threat. The old threat was from whalers. Now, the threat is from water pollution. Whales almost went extinct from whalers. It is now illegal to go whaling. Alaskan Eskimos are still aloud to go whaling for specific needs! 

Other Interesting Facts
Orcas can dive up to 100 feet in order to hunt! Orcas are very fast! To catch prey, they can swim up to 30 miles per hour. Pods contain 6-40 Orcas. They are very social and share food! They use echolocation, whistles, clicks, and scream like pulses to communicate with others, for mating purposes, and to find prey. They protect other sick, injured, and younger Orcas. 
Orcas are the fastest and the deadliest whales in the ocean. A pod of whales contains many generations of whales and remain together for life. Orcas belong in a large group of dolphins, and they are the largest dolphin. An Orcas eye is the size of a man's fist, and its teeth are the size of our thumb. The Orca has a strong jaw that contains 50 thumb-size teeth. The Orca is a cetacean. Cetacean is Latin word for whale. All mammals have hair, but the Orca only has few bristles. In the wild, male Orcas live about 40-60 years and females live about 90 years, but in captivity, males and females live about 13 years or less!

Orcas are found in all oceans, and in cold regions. It depends on all of us if they survive extinction. We have to help stop whaling and water pollution to help the Orcas.

Dutch translation will follow later

[ back to index Baturyn Elem. School ]

aliens help us too

Copyright 1997, 2002 - Joan Goble and René de Vries