AMAZING ORCAS INTERESTING FACTS Orca photo Copyright ©, Bill Hutchinson, The Kenai Peninsula Eagle PresS used here with permission.
The scientific name for an orca is Orcinus Orca.
Orcas belong to the mammal group called cetaceans. Cetacean is a Latin word that means "whale".
In the past orcas were thought of as very dangerous to humans. Americans once called them "sea wolves" and in Germany "Mordwal" means "death whale". In the 1960's orcas started to be put into oceanariums. When people had a chance to see how smart and playful orcas are, they realized that they weren't so mean.
Whales can be divided into two groups: toothed whales and baleen whales. Orcas are toothed whales.
Orcas are not fish! They are mammals, which means that they breathe air, nurse their young, and are warm blooded.
A male orca is a bull. A female orca is called a cow. The babies are called calves.
An orca can't smile because the blubber in its head keeps its face muscles from reaching the surface.
Orcas can't breath while they are under the water. It must come up to the surface to take a breath.
When a whale has held its breath underwater for a long time the air in its lungs gets warm. When it surfaces and blows this warm air into the cold ocean air it causes a visible fog to be blown up into a spout.
The "blow", or breath, that comes out of an orca smells like bad fish and old oil. This is because it contains droplets from the whale's sinuses and lungs. It leaves a greasy film on anything it touches.
Whales can hold their breath longer than land mammals because of a chemical called myoglobin. All mammals have myoglobin which carries oxygen in their bodies. Most whales have up to nine times the amount of myoglobin that land mammals do.
All whales, including orcas have lice. Whale lice are small crustaceans that attach themselves to the eyes, flippers, and throat grooves of a whale.
Did you know that killer whales eat other whales? In 1977 a group of killer whales attacked a blue whale and ate it.
Thousands of years ago orcas may have walked on land. They have bone structures that are very much like four legs. Their back leg bones are small and don't show on the outside of the orca. The front leg bones are located in their flippers.
An orca can swim at 30 miles (48 km) per hour.
A false killer whale has a fairly large dorsal fin and is sometimes mistaken for a killer whale. But is most definitely is not a killer whale . A false killer whale doesn't have white patches, is not black, and is much smaller. It is 20' and 3,000 pounds. While a killer whale can grow more than 31' and weigh over 8 tons.
Mission Rescue Whale
One high tide in August of 1994 a pod of 7 orcas chased a school of salmon into Barrens Lake in Alaska. But when the pod tried to get out the tide was to low, and when the tide was high they got stuck in seaweed. The whales could find no way out..
Later a fisher found the pod. One of the whales had shown up dead on the beach. The rest had eaten all the fish and if stayed there to long would starve. Time was critical. So a group of people decided to attempt an acoustic rescue. That is were you bang on pipes under water. The sound waves would hopefully lead the orcas to freedom. It worked the orcas were free!! The crowd cheered!!
................. This site has been developed by students for ThinkQuest Junior '98