Two Orcas Performing at the Shamu Show at Sea World, San Diego, California
Two Orcas Performing at the Shamu Show at Sea World Theme Park in San Diego.
INFORMATION ON THE ORCA:
The Orca or Killer Whale (Orcinus orca), less commonly, Blackfish or Seawolf, is the largest species of the oceanic dolphin family. It is found in all the world's oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to warm, tropical seas.
Orca are versatile and opportunistic predators. Some populations feed mostly on fish, and other populations hunt marine mammals, including sea lions, seals, and even large whales. There are up to five distinct Orca types, some of which may be separate races, subspecies or even species. Orcas are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups which are the most stable of any animal species. The sophisticated social behavior, hunting techniques, and vocal behavior of Orcas have been described as manifestations of culture.
Although Orcas are not an endangered species, some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to pollution, depletion of prey species, conflicts with fishing activities and vessels, habitat loss, and whaling. Wild Orcas are usually not considered a threat to humans. There have, however, been isolated reports of captive Orcas attacking their handlers at marine theme parks.
The name "Orca" (plural "Orcas") was originally given to these animals by the ancient Romans, possibly borrowed from the Greek word ὄρυξ which (among other things) referred to a species of whale. The term "orc" (or its variant "ork") has been used to describe a large fish, whale or sea-monster. It is now considered an obsolete equivalent for "Orca."
The name "killer whale" is widely used in common English. However, since the 1960s, "Orca" has steadily grown in popularity as the common name to identify the species, and both names are now used. This change is partly due to a desire to remove their reputation as "killers”.
Orcas are distinctively marked, with a black back, white chest and sides, and a white patch above and behind the eye. Calves are born with a yellowish or orange tint, which fades to white. Orcas have a heavy and stocky body and a large dorsal fin with a dark grey "saddle patch" at the fin's rear. Antarctic Orcas may have pale grey to nearly white backs. Males typically range from 6-8 meters long (19-26 ft) and weigh in excess of 6 tons. Females are smaller, generally ranging from 5-7 meters (16-23 ft) and a weight of about 4 to 5 tons. However, an adult Orca's weight can be anywhere from 2,585 to 7,257 kg (5,700 to 16,000 lb), although males are heavier than females. The largest Orca ever recorded was a male off the coast of Japan, measuring 9.8 m (32 ft) and weighed over 8 ton (17,636 lb). Calves at birth weigh about 180 kg (350-500 lb) and are about 2.4 m long (6-8 ft). The Orca's large size and strength make them among the fastest marine mammals, often reaching speeds in excess of 56 km/h (35 mph).
Unlike most dolphins, the pectoral fin of an Orca is large and rounded — more of a paddle than other dolphin species. Males have significantly larger pectoral fins than females. At about 1.8 m (6 ft), the dorsal fin of the male is more than twice the size of the female's, and is more of a triangle shape — a tall, elongated isosceles triangle, whereas the dorsal fin of the female is shorter and generally more curved.
The Orca is an apex predator. They are sometimes called the wolves of the sea because they hunt in packs like wolves. On average, an Orca eats 227 kg (500 lb) of food each day.
Orcas prey on a diverse array of species. However, specific populations show a high degree of specialization on particular prey species. For example, some populations in the Norwegian and Greenland seas specialize in herring and follow that fish's migratory path to the Norwegian coast each autumn. Other populations in the area prey on seals. In field observations of the resident Orcas of the northeast Pacific, salmon accounted for 96% of animals' diet, with 65% of the salmon being the large, fatty Chinook.
INFORMATION ON SEA WORLD, SAN DIEGO:
With more than 100 million visitors since its opening on March 21, 1964, SeaWorld is San Diego’s No. 1 tourist attraction and one of the most popular marine parks in the world. SeaWorld is best known for its iconic symbol/mascot/signature animal, Shamu the Killer Whale, thrilling audiences since 1965. In actuality, Shamu is an umbrella name for several performing whales over the course of the park's history. The Shamu show is a spectacular show, and culminates with a giant tidal wave of water that soaks the audience sitting in the front rows.