killer whale

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killer whale,





a large, rapacious marine mammal of the dolphindolphin,
aquatic mammal, any of the small toothed whales of the family Delphinidae, numbering more than 50 species. These include the true, or beaked, dolphins, the killer whale, the pilot whale, and the freshwater species found in rivers of South America and S and E Asia.
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 family. Historically considered one species, Orcinus orca, killer whales may be classified into several types, based on differences in appearance, prey preferences, and where they are found. Members of these groupings do not appear to interbreed, and some scientists believe, based in part on DNA evidence, that there are several species of killer whale. Killer whales are worldwide in distribution.

They are black above, with a sharply contrasting white oval patch around each eye; the belly is white with white markings projecting up along the animals' sides. They have a high, triangular dorsal fin midway between head and tail, and broad, paddle-shaped flippers. Male killer whales may reach a length of 30 ft (9 m) and females half that length.

Swift and ferocious animals, armed with more than four dozen sharp teeth, killer whales are the only cetacean (see whalewhale,
aquatic mammal of the order Cetacea, found in all oceans of the world. Members of this order vary greatly in size and include the largest animals that have ever lived. Cetaceans never leave the water, even to give birth.
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) that feeds regularly on birds or mammals. Killer whales may eat seals, sea birds, and fish, and in packs they may even attack larger whales. The female gives birth to a single calf, up to 7 ft (2.1 m) long, following a gestation period of approximately one year. Females mature in 6 to 7 years, males in 12.

They are classified in the phylum ChordataChordata
, phylum of animals having a notochord, or dorsal stiffening rod, as the chief internal skeletal support at some stage of their development. Most chordates are vertebrates (animals with backbones), but the phylum also includes some small marine invertebrate animals.
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, subphylum Vertebrata, class Mammalia, order Cetacea, family Delphinidae.

Killer Whale


(Orcinus orea), an aquatic mammal of the family Delphinidae.

The males of the killer whale reach 10 m in length and weigh as much as 8 tons, the females reach 7 m and weigh as much as 4 tons. The back and sides of the animal are black, the throat is white, and there is a white stripe down the abdomen. There is a white spot over each eye and, in the male, behind the dorsal fin. The pectoral fins are blunt and broad, and the dorsal fin is high (to 1.7 m in males and 0.9 m in females). There are 40-52 teeth.

The killer whale is cosmopolitan, found from the equator to the ice of the arctic and antarctic. In the USSR, it is found commonly in the waters of the Kuril Shelf and the Komandor Islands. There are none in the Laptev and Black seas. The animals stay in small herds. They feed on fish, cephalopods, and marine mammals. Only the large males attack other whales, and this only rarely. The killer whale is voracious, although not dangerous to man. It can live for long periods in captivity, in pens and aquariums. The animals eat up to 160 kg offish per day. They learn quickly. The gestation period lasts about 16 months. The calf is 2.1-2.8 m long at birth. The animal lives up to 50 years. Males reach sexual maturity at a length of 5.8 m; females, at 4.9 m. Killer whales do some damage to the fur-trapping and whaling industries. Each animal yields meat and as much as a ton of fat.


Tomilin, A. G. Kitoobraznye. (Zveri SSSR i prilezhashchikh stran, vol. 9.) Moscow, 1957.
Tomilin, A. G. Del’finy sluzhat cheloveku. Moscow, 1969.
Zhizn’ zhivotnykh, vol. 6. Moscow, 1971.


killer whale

[′kil·ər ‚wāl]
(vertebrate zoology)
Orcinus orca. A predatory, cosmopolitan cetacean mammal, about 30 feet (9 meters) long, found only in cold waters.

killer whale

a predatory black-and-white toothed whale, Orcinus orca, with a large erect dorsal fin, most common in cold seas: family Delphinidae
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