~ The Orca ~

The Orca is the largest of all dolphins and is found in all seas, from the equator to the polar seas. It is one of the most widely distributed animals on Earth.

Despite being known as a "whale", the Orca is apart of the dolphin family and is not a whale at all.

Until recently, the Orca had a reputation as a fierce killer, hence the name "Killer Whale". Its nickname (killer whale) came from 18th century whalers who saw Orca's feeding on other whales and dolphins. There is no known case of a wild Orca ever killing a human.

As top predator in the sea, the Orca's diet extends to several hundred known species, including sharks. The Orca has the most diversified diet of any whale or dolphin.

The black and white coloring of the Orca makes it easy to identify. Its belly is entirely white while its flippers are all black. The tall dorsal fin of the male, unique among cetaceans, can be recognized from great distances. In mature males the dorsal fin can be as tall as 6 feet. The dorsal fin of the females usually ranges half the height of mature male dorsal fins. The broad, rounded flippers in mature males are also very large and at maturity can range more than 6 feet long.

Orca's stay in long-term social groups, or pods, for their entire life. Males live an average of 29 years and females an average of 50 years. The pods range in size from 7 to 50 animals.

Orca's can be seen on tours around Vancouver Island, off Antarctica, Norway, and Iceland. They are very curious and will approach close to boats. Traveling in their close-knit groups they do great displays of spouting loudly, spyhopping, breaching, and lobtailing. Youngsters will sometimes ride the bow or wake of boats.

Orca's have been hunted in the past few decades, some being taken alive for the world aquarium trade. Recently they have been hunted off the coasts of Japan, Iceland, and Antarctica.

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