Killer whales are one of the most amazing creatures in the ocean; they are even more so when you consider that they can dive to unbelievable depths. The toothed killer whale or orca is an inhabitant of the warm Pacific Ocean, of which it is also the largest member. It is easily recognizable by its black and white surface patterned exterior.
These massive whales, which can grow up to fifteen metres in length, feed by ambush style eating of other smaller aquatic animals. Their digestive system works by filtering large amounts of water using their highly specialised gills. In captivity, the slow floating surface means that they are hardly noticed by other marine life. They have evolved into a very social species. They hunt, gather, and hunt some more, until they eventually become too big to hunt by themselves.
There are two different types of Killer whales, the Southern and the Northern type. The Southern Killer whales are slightly less aggressive than the Northern types; however they are still considered to be a major threat to endangered species in certain parts of their ranges. These creatures are rarely seen anywhere except in the warmer parts of the year and have only a few reproductive seasons between them. The number of fatal attacks has been rising since the last decade, primarily because of the increasing population of Orcas in the area.
In captivity, the slow movements and deep waters of Pugent Sound have caused a gradual decline in Killer whale numbers along with a general decline in Orca populations. Over the years there has been an increase in the number of Orcas, primarily due to capture fisheries. This has led to a serious reduction in the levels of prey species that are fed to these massive marine mammals. Orcas feed on different types of prey, including seals, birds, fish, turtles, manta rays and the like, but are primarily known for attacking and killing human beings.
Killer whales can reach a maximum speed of 31 miles per hour when swimming or diving, although some have been known to surpass this speed in certain circumstances. They also spend almost all of their waking hours submerged, so swimming speed is extremely low during these times. Their ability to dive and stay underwater is also one of their most important characteristics, enabling them to spend most of their time in quiet, undisturbed water. Although their cruising speeds are generally much faster, some have been known to travel over twelve miles per hour – the maximum recorded speed by a Killer whale.
No matter how you decide to measure this, the answer is still going to be surprising. The accepted record of the world’s fastest swimmer is 2.24 miles per hour, held by Korean-American Kim Tae-hoon. There are a number of different reasons as to why these speeds may be surpassed, ranging from a lack of training, to an injury. The ability of some individuals to swim at such great speeds has also been attributed to genetics, as some people are simply built for quick bursts of speed. However, there is no denying that the ability to break records and even surpass them remains one of the most thrilling aspects of being a Killer Whale.