Killer Whales Anatomy
Researchers are trying to find out more about the killer whale, which is also known as orca. The killer whale's anatomy when it appeared fifty million years ago was actually quite different from the anatomy the whale has today. Researchers claim that this species was once upon a time a land-based animal, and over a period of time, they moved from being land dwellers to water dwellers. When the ancestors of the killer whale were living on land, they had limbs, which allowed them to survive on land. However, now the killer whale's anatomy has changed to suit the water, which it survives in.
The body is rounded and shaped similar to a barrel. That would explain the orca's scientific name, Orcinus orca. In Latin, orca means a barrel. However, killer whales come in different sizes and appearances. For instance, an adult male killer whale can reach a length of 32 feet and weigh up to 12,100 pounds. On the other hand, adult female orcas are much smaller, reaching a length of 28 feet and weighing around 8,400 pounds.
The body has a distinctive white and black coloration. The body is mostly black, while the belly is white and there are white patches just above the eyes. In addition, the whale has a grayish white patch at the back the dorsal fin. This patch is characteristic and distinctive in each orca, and no two whales have the same type of patch. In fact, it is the patch at the rear of the dorsal fin that researchers use to categorize and classify individual orcas.
The head of the killer whale is blunt and round and it is equipped with extremely strong jaws, which have between 46 and 50 teeth. The teeth are like sharp spikes that are especially adapted to rip the flesh of the prey apart. The whale has a huge dorsal on its back which is triangular in shape. In an adult male, the dorsal fin can be as much 5.9 feet in height. It is also interesting to note that the appearance of the dorsal fin can vary from one killer whale to the next. At times, this fin can be twisted, curvy or flopped to one side. Some killer whales also have scars on their dorsal fins which they get after running into propellers of boats. The dorsal fin is another way that researchers identify individual killer whales. The killer whale's flippers are shaped like a paddle, but are broad; while the lobes of the tail tend to curl in a downward direction. Males have bigger lobes of the tail and flippers compared to the females.
The killer whale has the unique ability to live in freezing water because it has a thick fat layer under its skin. This fat, known as blubber, works to insulate the body against icy cold water and helps to maintain a steady body temperature, normally between 97.5 and 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit.
If you did not know until now, it may come as a surprise to learn that killer whales are mammals and not fish. They breathe with the help of lungs. However, the air does not enter their bodies through their nostrils. They have a blow hole on top of their heads through which the air goes into the lungs. After the whale breathes the air in, it submerges in water and the blow hole is covered with a flap. And, when the whale exhales, it opens the blow hole to just before it reaches the water surface and the deoxygenated air and water is expelled out of the body.
This species is truly the king of marine mammals. It is an extremely fast marine life, attaining speeds of 30 miles per hour and it can dive to a depth of about 200 feet, during which it slows down its heart rate to just 30 beats a minute, and the oxygen is pumped away from flippers and other extremities to important organs, such as the brain, heart and lungs.
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