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Killer Whale (Orca) conservation with Actichem

June 23rd, 2021 | Responsibly Green

How does Actichem support conservation efforts?

Our commitment to the environment extends well beyond responsibly green cleaning products. Actichem actively supports the amazing work done by the Taronga Zoo. By partnering with the Taronga Conservation Society Australia, we strive to make a genuine difference in the fight against extinction and pollution. Actichem not only provides financial support, but we also actively drive awareness through our animal awareness program and our Ocean+Earth CleanUp days.

In the Actichem Responsibly Green range their are currently 10 products. We have associated each product with a specific species of endangered animal, to draw attention to the plight of some of the worlds most amazing creatures.

The product associated with the Killer Whale, is the Responsibly Green Bathroom Cleaner.

Why did we choose to associate the Killer Whale with Bathroom Cleaner?

Let’s face it, Killer Whales are awesome. They are sleek, powerful, beautiful and fast. Killer Whales have featured in famous movies, they have been the subject of some famous court cases, but above all, they have impressed us with their versatility. Gentle giant or fearsome predator? All of these features, perfectly summed up the Responsibly Green Bathroom Cleaner. Powerful cleaning and germ killing, leaves beautiful clean surfaces and works fast.

Learn more about Killer Whales, and why we should protect them.

Common name: Killer Whale
Scientific name:
Status:
Average life span:
Size:
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The killer whale or orca (Orcinus orca) is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family, of which it is the largest member. It is recognizable by its black body with a white underside and patches near each eye. Killer whales have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals and other species of dolphin. They have been known to attack baleen whale calves, and even adult whales. Killer whales are apex predators, as no animal preys on them.

A cosmopolitan species, killer whales can be found in all of the world’s oceans in a variety of marine environments, from Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. They are highly social; some populations are composed of very stable matrilineal family groups (pods) which are the most stable of any animal species. Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviors, which are often specific to a particular group and passed across generations.

Different types of Killer Whales

The three to five types of killer whales may be distinct enough to be considered different races, subspecies, or possibly even species.

Although large variation in the ecological distinctiveness of different killer whale groups complicate simple differentiation into types, research off the west coast of Canada and the United States in the 1970s and 1980s identified the following three types:

Resident: These are the most commonly sighted of the three populations in the coastal waters of the northeast Pacific. Residents’ diets consist primarily of fish and sometimes squid, and they live in complex and cohesive family groups called pods. Female residents characteristically have rounded dorsal fin tips that terminate in a sharp corner. They visit the same areas consistently. British Columbia and Washington resident populations are amongst the most intensively studied marine mammals anywhere in the world. Researchers have identified and named over 300 killer whales over the past 30 years.

Transient or Bigg’s: The diets of these whales consist almost exclusively of marine mammals. Transients generally travel in small groups, usually of two to six animals, and have less persistent family bonds than residents. Transients vocalize in less variable and less complex dialects. Female transients are characterized by more triangular and pointed dorsal fins than those of residents. The grey or white area around the dorsal fin, known as the “saddle patch”, often contains some black colouring in residents. However, the saddle patches of transients are solid and uniformly grey. Transients roam widely along the coast; some individuals have been sighted in both southern Alaska and California. Transients are also referred to as Bigg’s killer whale in honour of cetologist Michael Bigg. The term has become increasingly common and may eventually replace the transient label.

Offshore: A third population of killer whales in the northeast Pacific was discovered in 1988, when a humpback whale researcher observed them in open water. As their name suggests, they travel far from shore and feed primarily on schooling fish. However, because they have large, scarred, and nicked dorsal fins resembling those of mammal-hunting transients, it may be that they also eat mammals and sharks. They have mostly been encountered off the west coast of Vancouver Island and near Haida Gwaii. Offshores typically congregate in groups of 20–75, with occasional sightings of larger groups of up to 200. Little is known about their habits, but they are genetically distinct from residents and transients. Offshores appear to be smaller than the others, and females are characterized by dorsal fin tips that are continuously rounded.

Transients and residents live in the same areas but avoid each other.

In addition, separate populations of “generalist” (fish- and mammal-eating) and “specialist” (mammal-eating) killer whales have been identified off northwestern Europe. As with residents and transients, the lifestyle of these whales appears to reflect their diet; fish-eating killer whales in Alaska and Norway have resident-like social structures, while mammal-eating killer whales in Argentina and the Crozet Islands behave more like transients.

Three types have been documented in the Antarctic.

  • Type A looks like a “typical” killer whale, a large, black-and-white form with a medium-sized white eye patch, living in open water and feeding mostly on minke whales.
  • Type B is smaller than type A. It has a large white eye patch. Most of the dark parts of its body are medium grey instead of black, although it has a dark grey patch called a “dorsal cape” stretching back from its forehead to just behind its dorsal fin. The white areas are stained slightly yellow. It feeds mostly on seals.
  • Type C is the smallest and lives in larger groups than the others. Its eye patch is distinctively slanted forwards, rather than parallel to the body axis. Like type B, it is primarily white and medium grey, with a dark grey dorsal cape and yellow-tinged patches. Its only observed prey is the Antarctic cod.
  • Type D was identified based on photographs of a 1955 mass stranding in New Zealand and six at-sea sightings since 2004. The first video record of this type was made in 2014 between the Kerguelen and Crozet Islands, and again in 2017 off the coast of Cape Horn, Chile. It is recognizable by its small white eye patch, narrower and shorter than usual dorsal fin, bulbous head (similar to a pilot whale), and smaller teeth. Its geographic range appears to be circumglobal in sub-Antarctic waters between latitudes 40°S and 60°S. Although its diet is not determined, it likely includes fish, as determined by photographs around longline vessels, where Type D orcas appeared to be preying on Patagonian toothfish.
Appearance

A typical killer whale distinctively bears 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. It has a heavy and robust body with a large dorsal fin up to 1.8 m (5 ft 11 in) tall. Behind the fin, it has a dark grey “saddle patch” across the back. Antarctic killer whales may have pale grey to nearly white backs. Adult killer whales are very distinctive, seldom confused with any other sea creature. When seen from a distance, juveniles can be confused with other cetacean species, such as the false killer whale or Risso’s dolphin. An individual killer whale can often be identified from its dorsal fin and saddle patch.

The killer whale’s teeth are very strong, and its jaws exert a powerful grip; the upper teeth fall into the gaps between the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. The firm middle and back teeth hold prey in place, while the front teeth are inclined slightly forward and outward to protect them from powerful jerking movements.

Killer whales are the largest extant members of the dolphin family. Males typically range from 6 to 8 metres (20 to 26 ft) long and weigh more than 6 tons (5.9 long tons; 6.6 short tons). Females are smaller, generally ranging from 5 to 7 m (16 to 23 ft) and weighing about 3 to 4 tons (3.0 to 3.9 long tons; 3.3 to 4.4 short tons). Calves at birth weigh about 180 kg (400 lb) and are about 2.4 m (7.9 ft) long. The skeleton of the killer whale is of the typical delphinid structure, but more robust. Its integument, unlike that of most other dolphin species, is characterized by a well-developed dermal layer with a dense network of fascicles of collagen fibres.

Killer whale pectoral fins, analogous to forelimbs, are large and rounded, resembling paddles, with those of males significantly larger than those of females. Dorsal fins…of males about 1.8 m (5.9 ft) high, more than twice the size of the female’s, with the male’s fin more like a tall, elongated isosceles triangle, whereas the female’s is shorter and more curved.

Occasionally a killer whale is white; they have been spotted in the northern Bering Sea and around St. Lawrence Island, and near the Russian coast.

Killer whales have good eyesight above and below the water, excellent hearing, and a good sense of touch. They have exceptionally sophisticated echolocation abilities, detecting the location and characteristics of prey and other objects in the water by emitting clicks and listening for echoes, as do other members of the dolphin family.

The mean body temperature of the orca is 36 to 38 °C (97 to 100 °F).[72][73] Like most marine mammals, orcas have a layer of insulating blubber ranging from 7.6 to 10 cm (3.0 to 3.9 in) thick beneath the skin. The pulse is about 60 heartbeats per minute when the orca is at the surface, dropping to 30 beats/min when submerged.

Population

Worldwide population estimates are uncertain, but recent consensus suggests a minimum of 50,000 (2006).  Local estimates include roughly 25,000 in the Antarctic, 8,500 in the tropical Pacific, 2,250–2,700 off the cooler northeast Pacific and 500–1,500 off Norway. Japan’s Fisheries Agency estimated in the 2000s that 2,321 killer whales were in the seas around Japan.

References

Wikipedia

Livescience

Oceana

Taronga Conservation Society Australia

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