The orca (Orcinus orca), commonly known as the killer whale, and often called the grampus, is the largest member of the oceanic dolphin family. It is the second-most widely distributed mammal on Earth (after humans) and is found in all the world's oceans. It is also a versatile predator, eating fish, turtles, birds, seals, sharks and even other juvenile and small cetaceans. This puts the orca at the pinnacle of the marine food chain. The name "killer whale" reflects the animal's reputation as a magnificent and fearsome sea mammal that goes as far back as Pliny the Elder's description of the species. Today it is recognized that the orca is neither a whale (except in the broadest sense, i.e., the sense that all cetaceans are whales) nor a danger to humans; no attack on a human by an orca in the wild has ever been recorded, though there have been isolated reports of captive orcas attacking their handlers at marine theme parks.













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The animals are distinctively marked, with a black back, white chest and sides and a white patch above and behind the eye. They have a heavy and stocky body and a large dorsal fin. Males can be up to 9.5 m long (31 ft) and weigh in excess of 6 tons; females are smaller, reaching up to 8.5 m (28 ft) and a weight of about 5 tons. Calves at birth weigh about 180 kg and are about 2.4 m long (8 ft). At about 1.8 m (6 ft), the dorsal fin of the male is taller than the female's, and more upright. Large male orcas are very distinctive and are unlikely to be confused with any other sea creature. When seen from a distance in temperate waters, females and juveniles can be confused with various other species, such as the False Killer Whale or Risso's Dolphin.

001- 002.jpg courtesy US Fish and Wildlife Service
003-024.jpg courtesy National Undersea Research Program






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