Killer Whale Anatomy

Killer Whale physical characteristics

We cannot deny the beauty that characterizes killer whales. Their large size and their anatomical design allow us to differentiate and distinguish them from other cetaceans in the ocean quickly.

When we were small kids, how many of us thought their eyes were those long white patches on the head? We surprised to learn that this was not correct and that their visual organs were smaller than we could imagine at the time.

Orcas are 5-7 meters long in the case of females, and males can reach up to eight meters. In exceptional cases, adults can reach up to 9.8 meters, but this is not often. They range in weight from 3 to 6 tons. Part of this weight is due to its large amount of fat under the skin that can measure up to 10 cm thick.

These marine mammals are warm-blooded, and their body temperature is similar to that of humans, it is between 36.4 and 38 ° C., but their temperature control allows them to live in cold water without suffering any damage to their health.

Killer whales are marine animals of black color on the upper body with white spots on the sides of the belly distributed throughout the bottom. The two horizontal white spots at the height of their eyes give them more imposing and even threatening look.

Its dorsal fin is one of the most important parts of their anatomy. In large adult individuals, this can reach an impressive height of 1.80 meters, the largest of all existing dolphins. Such a feature may vary according to geographic location and gender, but usually do not exceed that size.

Sexual dimorphism exists in these species, despite being apparently identical. The main and most visible indicator we can identify is in the dorsal fin. The males have it straight and long, while the females have smaller fins and with a sharp curvature at the tip. Similarly, pectoral fins are more prominent in males.

Orcas have a blowhole protected by a muscular flap, which provides protection to the cavity and opens or closes it according to the need of the animal. Like all cetaceans, this blowhole is located on top of the head to allow easier breathing process. Orcas also contain a melon that is at its prominent forehead and is useful for performing echolocation.

Its skeleton is long and thick. It has no hind limbs, only contains the skull, ribs, bone structure of the front fins and a backbone that consists of 52 vertebrae. The vertebrae, which constitute the beginning of the tail, are integrated like links of a chain, allowing large swimming movements. The caudal or tail fin is connected to the skeleton by muscles and tendons.

They have between 40 and 56 teeth whose conical shape allows them to hold their prey and tear it into smaller pieces. Each tooth is almost eight centimeters (3 1/8 inches) long with a diameter of 2.5 centimeters (1 inch). Wild adults have worn off teeth due to the prey they capture, particularly sharks, whose skin made up of denticles, is a highly rough and abrasive structure.



They have the ability to process sounds faster than humans. This sense is well developed, which helps them during echolocation.


According to scientific research, they do not have developed this sense.


They are more sensitive to touch in areas of the blowhole and around eyes and mouth.


It is still unknown whether they have taste buds, but in practice it is possible to conclude that orcas prefer certain types of fish, that could be because those fishes provide them a higher amount of fat or because they just like them more.


They have a sharp vision in and out of the water, but research is still on his way to determine the development of this sense.

There is no doubt that the orcas are very interesting species and despite belonging to the dolphin family they have unique features that no other member shares. They are very complex animals with several issues still to research.


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