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 Orcinus orca

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MessaggioOggetto: Orcinus orca   Mer 28 Apr 2010 - 11:39

L’animale amato da chi ho amato e conserva un posto nel mio “cuore umano” 
Spero che sia sempre di ispirazione e protezione alla sua vita.




Orcinus orca:

Da Wikipedia, l'enciclopedia libera.

http://it.wikipedia.org/wiki/Orcinus_orca


L'orca (Orcinus orca) è un mammifero marino appartenente alla famiglia dei Delfinidi (Cetacei Odontoceti). Il distacco filogenetico in una specie autonoma è avvenuto per i tassonomisti circa 5 milioni di anni fa. Il nome "Orca" è stato dato a questi animali dagli antichi Romani, che a loro volta l'hanno mutuato dal greco ὄρυξ, che si riferisce genericamente a balene, grandi pesci o mostri marini. L'aggettivo Orcino significa invece demone proveniente dall'inferno: Orco per i Romani era un dio sotterraneo. In inglese l'animale è chiamato killer whale, vale a dire balena assassina (sottinteso di altre balene).
Dimensioni
Il peso del maschio di orca può arrivare fino a 10000 Kg, mentre quello della femmina fino a 7500 Kg. La lunghezza è di 5-9 metri per il maschio e 4,6-8 metri per la femmina. L'Orca è il mammifero più veloce al mondo (in acqua) e può raggiungere la velocità di 50 km/h.
Diffusione e habitat
L' orca è diffusa in tutti gli oceani e i mari del mondo e vive sia negli abissi sia nei bassifondi vicino alle coste arrivando a volte addirittura fino alle foci di alcuni fiumi.
Normalmente però l'orca preferisce vivere nelle acque fredde del Polo Nord dove, in estate, caccia tra i banchi di ghiaccio. Solo alcune specie migrano di estate verso l'equatore, in maniera molto simile alle balene grigie che migrano vicino alle coste statunitensi.
Eccezionalmente sono stati notati esemplari nel Mediterraneo. È difficile intuire il numero di individui nel mondo: le stime considerate più attendibili parlano di 100.000 esemplari totali, di cui 70-80 mila solo nell'Artide.
In genere non è considerata una minaccia per gli esseri umani: gli unici attacchi registrati sono avvenuti in cattività nei Parchi Marini e in condizioni di stress particolari.
Comportamento
L'orca vive normalmente in gruppi composti dalla femmina, i suoi piccoli, femmine più anziane e sterili e un maschio adulto. Questa è una famiglia base matrilineare chiamata anche pod.
Tutti i componenti di questa famiglia "parlano" tra loro attraverso suoni di vario genere e ogni pod ha il proprio linguaggio. L'orca ha un organo specifico posto sulla fronte che può usare come sonar. Tutti gli oggetti colpiti dalle onde sonore rimandano un'eco che le orche percepiscono come un animale o come una roccia da evitare.
Riproduzione ed età
Una femmina di orca può riprodursi con maschi anche di diversi pod. Allora i maschi, non potendo riconoscere i figli, si occupano di tutti quelli presenti nel loro gruppo.
Dopo circa 1 anno e mezzo di gestazione la femmina partorisce un solo piccolo, di norma nelle acque basse, e lo porta subito vicino a uno dei suoi parenti.
Per ogni femmina l'intervallo tra un parto e l'altro va dai 3 agli 8 anni, soprattutto a causa delle prolungate cure parentali.
La maturità sessuale avviene nella femmina a 10 anni (quando è lunga dai 4,6 ai 4,8 metri); il maschio invece matura a 16 anni e 5,8 metri di lunghezza.
Dallo scheletro di Old Tom, un'orca che aiutava i balenieri a cacciare le balene (e che veniva ricompensata lasciandole mangiare lingua e labbra delle prede uccise), fu calcolata una età presunta di circa 90 anni, anche se in recenti studi tale stima è stata ridotta a soli 35 anni.
Caccia
Le orche sono animali fortemente sociali, e la caccia coinvolge tutto il gruppo. Il tipo di prede dipende dalle abitudini del gruppo: popolazioni dette residenti, sono stanziali e si nutrono essenzialmente di pesci; le transienti invece cacciano soprattutto mammiferi marini come foche, leoni marini e addirittura cuccioli di balene. Durante la caccia le transienti diventano molto silenziose, per cogliere di sorpresa le loro prede, ma l'attacco è ben coordinato e ogni individuo ha un preciso ruolo. Rientrano nella loro dieta anche pinguini e altri uccelli marini. Nel 1988 in mare aperto è stato scoperto un nuovo tipo di popolazione detto Offshore, che viaggia in gruppi di circa 60 esemplari, distinto geneticamente dai transienti e dai residenti. È poco conosciuto, anche se le femmine Offshore si riconoscono perché hanno strisce che circondano le pinne.
Le due popolazioni di residenti e transienti qualora frequentino lo stesso ambiente marino, evitano contatti reciproci.
Alcune popolazioni hanno sviluppato delle tecniche peculiari di caccia. Ad esempio le orche argentine si radunano in febbraio di fronte alle spiagge dove si riproducono i leoni marini per cacciare i cuccioli ancora inesperti. La tecnica è semplice: un individuo nuota di fronte alla spiaggia con la pinna dorsale ben visibile sopra la superficie del mare facendosi quindi notare, un altro individuo tenendosi sott'acqua, incrocia dalla direzione opposta. Se ci sono cuccioli distratti che riposano sulla battigia, l'orca che si è tenuta nascosta, con una impressionante rapidità, nuota verso la spiaggia cercando di catturare la preda. In quest'impresa l'animale si spiaggia, ma con decisi movimenti del corpo scivola indietro riguadagnando il mare e portando con sé l'eventuale preda.
Nei loro viaggi per mare le orche vengono spesso in contatto con altri grandi predatori del mare, fra cui lo Squalo Bianco. In genere questi due predatori tendono ad evitarsi (c'è anche da tener conto che l'osservazione nei mari non è certo completa, registra solo una minima parte dei casi) ma in un'occasione un'orca di 6 metri uccise un giovane squalo bianco di 3,5 metri per difendere il suo piccolo [senza fonte]. Verso la fine del 2009, la biologa marina Ingrid Vissen e il suo team ha documentato con diverse foto il comportamento predatorio di alcuni branchi di orche a largo della Nuova Zelanda a danno di grossi esemplari di squalo Mako e Bianco.[senza fonte] L'Orca attacca e uccide anche il Tricheco. L'unico animale in grado di sopraffarla è il Capodoglio.
Orche in cattività
Nel 2009 sono state stimate 41 orche in cattività. Di seguito le strutture nel mondo che ospitano questi mammiferi[1]:
• Sea World California (Corky 2, Kasatka, Ulises, Orkid, Sumar, Nakai, Kalia)
• Sea World Florida (Katina, Kalina, Tillikum, Kayla, Taima, Trua, Nalani, Malia)
• Sea World Texas (Takara, Kyuquet, Keet, Unna, Tuar)
• Miami Seaquarium (Lolita)
• Marineland Ontario (Kiska, Ikaika)
• Marineland Antibes, Francia (Wiki, Ionuk, Freya, Valentin)
• Kamogawa SeaWorld, Giappone (Bingo, Stella, Oscar, Lovey, Lara, Ran 2, Heart)
• Taiji Whaling Museum, Giappone (Nami)
• Acuario Mundo Marino, Buenos Aires (Khsamenk)
• Loro Parque Tenerife, Spagna (Keto, Kohanna, Skyla, Tekoa)
Nel Febbraio 2010 l'orca Tillikum del Sea World Florida ha azzannato ed ucciso una delle sue addestratrici durante uno spettacolo. Sia con quest'orca che con altre erano già accaduti in precedenza eventi simili.[2]
Curiosità
• Nel film Lo Squalo la barca con cui si intraprende la caccia allo squalo bianco si chiama Orca, proprio perché sono considerati nemici naturali.
• Un'orca vendicativa è l'antagonista del romanzo L'orca assassina di Arthur Herzog (portato sul grande schermo nel 1977). Nel romanzo in questione l'orca vuole vendicarsi di un pescatore colpevole di avergli ucciso la compagna nonché il piccolo che lei portava in grembo.



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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Orcinus orca   Mer 28 Apr 2010 - 11:40



Guardian of the Cosmic Memory
For many indigenous peoples, Orca (also known as the ~Sea Wolf,~) is the Guardian of the Cosmic Memory.
Beliefs surrounding the Orca`s origin vary from tribe to tribe, with some tribes holding the belief that the ~Sea Wolf~ was created when a young man was walking along the beach and heard a pitiful whining. Following the sound, he soon discovered two young wolf cubs that he took back to his lodge and raised them to adulthood.
One day he awoke to discover that the wolves had left him and puzzled, he followed their tracks down to the beach where he had first found them. As he approached the ocean, he saw the wolves swimming out into the ocean where they killed a whale. Much to his amazement, the wolves then brought the dead whale to shore so that the man might have its meat and make use of the blubber and bones.
Things continued such for many days until the time came that the beach was now littered with decaying whales as the wolves were hunting more whales than the man living alone could possibly harvest. Seeing such great waste, the ~One Above~ called upon the Thunder Beings, the Rains and the Fog so that the wolves would not be able to find any whales to kill.
Grandmother Ocean became so tumultuous that the wolves were unable to find their way back to land and were forced to stay out in the water where they were transformed to ~Sea Wolves~ or as they are known today, Killer Whales.
Other tribes believe that the Sky (or Star) Nation brought Orca to Ina Maka (Mother Earth) from the Dog Star Sirius (the Home of the Ancestors). It was then that this ~Great Wolf~ was made Keeper of the Ocean, and Guardian of the Cosmic Memory . . . hence the name ~Sea (for the waters in which She would now dwell) Wolf~ (in remembrance of the Home World)~.
***Like their Spirit Totem, the two-legged beside whom Orca (and all Dolphin & Whale Totems) swims, has an unconscious memory of their Origin and Heritage. This is a deeply buried Memory that has been imprinted upon their Soul, cosmic knowledge and recollections of the ~home world~ and of the Ancestors. Though this Cosmic Memory is deeply buried even beyond the levels of the ~sub-conscious,~ the Sleeper may Awaken at any stage when the time fast approaches for the Ancestors Return. Often times this Memory is Awakened via sound, or as other soul-group members are re-connected as ~Pods.~
It is believed that we are fast approaching the Center of the Universe, an event that happens approximately every 24-25,000 years. When the Ina Maka enters the Center of the Universe, the opportunity is had for all of Human Consciousness to make the step across the bridge or through the Doorway into the Fifth World of Peace and Ultimate Illumination. The next such date of this "occurrence" is believed will take place in 2012.
At some later stage, a separate page will be written dedicated to this ~Prophecy,~ and will be a World Wide opportunity, not exclusive to any one clan or ~tribe~ of souls.
How this is significant for All with a Totem of Dolphin or Whale, is that this awareness is even closer to the surface than it may be for ~Others~ as these are the souls that have agreed to light the lantern of Illumination that Others may find their way across, as He/She reminds us that we are all connected, we are all ONE.***


Creativity

Many creation legends and theories are centered around the belief that all Life sprang from the Ocean, and that members of the Dolphin and Whale family are a Symbol of that Creative Spark at the height of its expression.
Orca teaches us the Power of Breath and Creativity, and in observing the manner in which any of the Dolphin/Whale Totems breathe, this is significant in applying those same principles to one beside whom this Animal Ally swims.
As the Orca surfaces for air, they are commonly sighted ~breaching~ free of the water, a behavior that marine biologists do not completely understand as it does not appear to serve any ~useful~ or biological purpose. The Orca could just as easily merely rise to the surface of the water (as it does at other times) to take in the necessary oxygen, yet will often breach the water in what appears to be a desire to leap back ~Home.~
***For the two-legged beside whom Orca swims, the above carries a double meaning. Firstly, there is the longing within the Orca (Whale/Dolphin) Soul to return ~Home~ to the Ancestors and all that came before. This sense of longing varies . . . at times so silent as to be nearly non-existent, at other moments mild, acknowledged then released, and still other times felt as sharp and keen as a jab to the heart, filling this gentle soul with a
nearly overwhelming sense of ~Disconnection.~
The second meaning that this behavior carries with it is a vehicle through which creativity, insight and emotions may be bottled or stuffed. When this is the case, and the Orca soul has succeeded in pushing their feelings so deep, or when they have subjugated their own needs/wants in deference to an ~Other`s~, the result is that those feelings must find some means of release. Often these thoughts and feelings then surface in an explosive rush that may be quite overwhelming for these gentle souls.
Likewise, when their creativity has been "thwarted" for whatever reason, an inner tension builds within the Orca Soul. If an outlet is not found for either the repressed thoughts, emotions or creativity, there may be a physical manifestation in the form of the on-set of an illness, in particular those affecting the lungs such as asthma, bronchitis, chest colds or even pneumonia.
To combat this (and is also a method that will be mentioned under the Healing keyword below), when tensions are building from suppressed or repressed thoughts, emotions or creativity, it would be wise for the Two-Legged with a Dolphin or Whale Totem (such as Orca), to observe, then imitate, the manner in which these Sea Mammals breathe.
Taking in a lung full of air, filling the chest with as much oxygen as possible as though about to dive into the ocean`s depths, holding for as long as comfortably possible, then exhaling in an explosive manner that imitates the sound of the Orca surfacing for air and exhaling through their blowhole.
There is no set number of times that this ought to be repeated, however keep in mind that too much of this deep breathing may induce light-headedness and thus the exercise is best performed in a safe, relaxed seated position. With each inhale and resultant exhale, a personalized affirmation might be utilized, such as for emotional release, "I freely, lovingly and effortlessly express myself in a manner that is respectful of the Self and of Others."
An affirmation for releasing Creative Potential might be such as, "The Creative Force and Genius of the Universe flows effortlessly and lovingly to and through me. I am a tube through which Great Mystery works."
In both instances, it is embracing the Medicine of Orca to better assist the compassionate and creative being beside whom Orca swims.***

Sensitivity
Like all members of the Dolphin family, (Orca`s are not whales as many believe, but are the largest member of the Dolphin family), Orca`s are highly intelligent and sensitive creatures, with a perception and awareness that is astounding.
The care that they exhibit toward their offspring and to the sick and injured members of the pod, as well as the dedication to all ~pod~ members, goes far beyond the explanation of mere biology alone, and seems indicative of a heightened sense of spirituality and genuine caring.
As a matriarchal society, Orca males will stay beside their mother throughout their lifetime, offering her protection and support. The only time that a male will leave his mother`s Pod is to answer the call of a female Orca in estrus. Once the mating with that non Pod member female is complete, the male will return once again to swim beside his mother and siblings.
***For the two-legged beside whom Orca swims, there will be a great deal of emotional and ~psychic~ sensitivity. These are the individuals who possess a heightened awareness of the suffering of Others, and will immediately sense the pain that may lay behind the casual words spoken or assurances that "everything is fine." Some inner ~knowing~ within the Orca soul will be triggered in those instances, a reflection of the Orca`s
own sonar capabilities.
Although there is a marked degree of sensitivity within the Orca Soul, there also exists the ability to draw back from actually taking on the pain and suffering of those around them. It is an inherent understanding that to do so, would "rob" that one whom they desire to assist, from the Life Lessons that soul is here to learn. Yet often this inherent knowledge is only awakened after some painful lessons of their own, though once the
memory has been awakened, it serves them well in their effort and "call" to assist their fellow two-leggeds.***


Healing through Communication
All Dolphins and Whales are thought to have healing abilities as an intrinsic part of their unique ~Medicine.~
Even scientists and marine biologists seem to be warming to this long held belief as they are witnessing for themselves the healing interaction that is had between mentally and/or physically challenged children and members of the Dolphin family.
With Orca in particular, it is believed that it is her ~voice~ that is the true healing agent.
***The two-legged who is blessed to have Orca as a Primary Totem (Power, Theme or Mission), will likewise possess an innate healing ability. This ~Gift~ will differ in both intensity (from slight to powerful), and in manifestation (energy healing from distance, laying on of hands, etc.,) yet is one of the Gifts that the Great Mystery has lovingly bestowed upon these Souls.
As with their Animal Ally, the two-legged Orca soul will have the ability to heal through communication. This ability however, is not limited to speaking alone, but also includes all other forms of communication as in the written word, as well as through artistic expressions (painting images, playing a musical instrument or singing).
Most commonly, the healing will come through the voice, and it is also through the resonance of sound that the Orca Soul will experience the awakening of those memories that have been stored on a soul or cellular level. This may occur through hearing a certain piece of music not previously heard before, the click or calls of a Dolphin or Whale while watching a program on these beautiful creatures or having a first-hand encounter, or through hearing for the first time a member of their ~Pod~ (or Soul Group) speak. Though it may take many years of development to become consciously aware of when this is occurring, once the ability has been honed, the Orca individual may then learn to tune into this Cosmic Memory through a chant or mantra he/she may sing or hum. This same "cosmic song" may then also be employed to heal and awaken ~Others,~ and in times of physical illness or stress (as previously stated physical manifestations will tend to surface in the lungs) employing the technique of "Dolphin/Whale Breathing" while assist in expediting the healing process.***

Alchemy
Alchemy, is the ability to transform raw or "base" materials into matter of a higher vibration, nature or quality. In relation to ~Sea Wolf,~ it is believed that as Guardian to the Cosmic Memory, Orca has the ability to create portals through which the ~Home World~ (the doorway to the Star Nation) may be reached.
***For the two-legged with this power animal ally, the Orca is believed to be a powerful lantern of enlightenment, illuminating the pathway for those who desire to step beyond the ~mundane~ world of the physical senses, to the magical shores of cosmic understanding.
As they journey through their early lives (and early childhood/adulthood of the current lifetime), Orca souls experience many lessons in making the best possible out of often very meager or painful experiences. They do not enter into an "easy" existence . . . to the contrary, their life is often met with numerous challenges, more so than most around them to the point where friends or loved ones may even comment on the number or frequency with which these hardships are encountered.
Yet beneath all of the trauma and pain, there is an inner sense that there is "more" to the experiences. It is thus that the two-legged beside whom Orca swims (with sufficient maturation and detached observation), learns to fashion the Golden Staff of Enlightenment from the minerals of past experiences and lessons learned.***


http://wolfs_moon.tripod.com/OrcaTotem.html
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MessaggioOggetto: Re: Orcinus orca   Mer 3 Ago 2011 - 17:32

Consiglio la visione del seguente articolo, di cui riporto qualche stralcio, di wikipedia dove vi sono suggestive tracce sonore del loro canto.

Buona lettura e buon ascolto Very Happy

FONTE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale

Killer whale
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The killer whale (Orcinus orca), commonly referred to as the orca, and less commonly as the blackfish, is a toothed whale belonging to the oceanic dolphin family. Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. Killer whales as a species 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 sea lions, seals, walruses and even large whales. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators and preying on even large sharks.

Killer whales are highly social; some populations are composed of matrilineal family groups which are the most stable of any animal species.[5] Their sophisticated hunting techniques and vocal behaviors, which are often specific to a particular group and passed across generations, have been described as manifestations of culture.[6]

The IUCN currently assesses the orca's conservation status as data deficient because of the likelihood that one or more killer whale types are separate species. Some local populations are considered threatened or endangered due to prey depletion, habitat loss, pollution (by PCBs), capture for marine mammal parks, and conflicts with fisheries. In late 2005, the killer whales known as the "southern resident killer whales" were placed on the U.S. Endangered Species list.

Wild killer whales are not considered a threat to humans,[7] although there have been cases of captives killing or injuring their handlers at marine theme parks. Killer whales feature strongly in the mythologies of indigenous cultures, with their reputation ranging from being the souls of humans to merciless killers.


FONTE IMMAGINE: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Killerwhales_jumping.jpg

Common names

English-speaking scientists most often use the term killer whale,[11] although the term orca is increasingly used. Killer whale advocates point out that it has a long heritage. Indeed, the genus name Orcinus means "of the kingdom of the dead",[11] or "belonging to Orcus."[12] Ancient Romans originally applied orca (plural orcae) to these animals, possibly borrowing it from the Greek ὄρυξ, which referred (among other things) to a whale species. Since the 1960s, orca has steadily grown in popularity; both names are now used. The term orca is preferred by some to avoid the negative connotations of "killer",[13] and because, being part of the family Delphinidae, the species is more closely related to other dolphins than to whales.[14]

They are sometimes referred to as blackfish, a name used for some whale species as well. Grampus is a former name for the species, but is now seldom used. This meaning of grampus should not be confused with the Grampus genus, whose only member is Risso's Dolphin.[15]

Behavior

Day-to-day killer whale behavior generally consists of foraging, travelling, resting and socializing. Killer whales are frequently active at the surface, engaging in acrobatic behaviors such as breaching, spyhopping, and tail-slapping. These activities may have a variety of purposes, such as courtship, communication, dislodging parasites, or play. Spyhopping, a behaviour in which a whale holds its head above water, helps the animal view its surroundings.[94]

Resident killer whales swim with porpoises, other dolphins, seals, and sea lions, which are common prey for transient killer whales.

Social structure

Killer whales are notable for their complex societies. Only elephants and higher primates, such as humans, live in comparably complex social structures.[52] Due to orcas' complex social bonds and society, many marine experts have concerns about how humane it is to keep these animals in captive situations.[95] Resident killer whales in the eastern North Pacific have a particularly complex and stable social grouping system. Unlike any other mammal species whose social structure is known, residents live with their mothers for their entire lives. These societies are based on matrilines consisting of the matriarch and her descendants who form part of the line, as do their descendants. The average size of a matriline is 5.5 animals.[96]

Because females can reach age 90, as many as four generations travel together. These matrilineal groups are highly stable. Individuals separate for only a few hours at a time, to mate or forage. With one exception, the killer whale named Luna, no permanent separation of an individual from a resident matriline has been recorded.[96]

Closely related matrilines form loose aggregations called pods, usually consisting of one to four matrilines. Unlike matrilines, pods may separate for weeks or months at a time.[96] DNA testing indicates that resident males nearly always mate with females from other pods.[97]

Clans are the next level of resident social structure, and are composed of pods with similar dialects and common but older maternal heritage. Clan ranges overlap, mingling pods from different clans.[96]

The final association layer, perhaps more arbitrarily-defined than the familial groupings, is called the community and is defined as a set of clans that regularly commingle. Clans within a community do not share vocal patterns.[Note 2]

Transient pods are smaller than resident pods, typically consisting of an adult female and one or two of her offspring. Males typically maintain stronger relationships with their mothers than females. These bonds can extend well into adulthood. Unlike residents, extended or permanent separation of transient offspring from natal matrilines is common, with juveniles and adults of both sexes participating. Some males become “rovers” and do not form long-term associations, occasionally joining groups that contain reproductive females.[98] As in resident clans, transient community members share an acoustic repertoire, although regional differences in vocalizations have been noted.[99]

Vocalizations

Like all cetaceans, killer whales depend heavily on underwater sound for orientation, feeding, and communication. Killer whales produce three categories of sounds: clicks, whistles, and pulsed calls. Clicks are believed to be used primarily for navigation and discriminating prey and other objects in the surrounding environment, but are also commonly heard during social interactions.[23]

Northeast Pacific resident groups tend to be much more vocal than transient groups in the same waters.[100] Residents feed primarily on salmon, whose hearing is too poor to detect killer whale calls at any relevant distance. Residents make sounds to identify themselves when they approach another marine mammal.

Transient are typically silent probably to avoid alerting their mammalian prey, all of whom have excellent underwater hearing.[100] They sometimes use a single click (called a cryptic click) rather than the long train of clicks observed in other populations.

All members of a resident pod use similar calls, known collectively as a dialect. Dialects are composed of specific numbers and types of discrete, repetitive calls. They are complex and stable over time. Call patterns and structure are distinctive within matrilines. Newborns produce calls similar to their mothers, but have a more limited repertoire.[99] Individuals likely learn their dialect through contact with their mother and other pod members.[101] For instance, family-specific calls have been observed more frequently in the days following a calf's birth, which may help the calf learn them.[102] Dialects are probably an important means of maintaining group identity and cohesiveness. Similarity in dialects likely reflects the degree of relatedness between pods, with variation building over time.[103]

Researchers have not determined whether calls have particular meanings or are associated with specific types of activity. Resident dialects contain 7–17 (mean = 11) distinctive call types. Transient dialects are much different, having only 4–6 discrete calls, none of which they share with residents. All members of the North American west coast transient community express the same basic dialect, although minor regional variation in call types is evident. Preliminary research indicates that offshore killer whales have group-specific dialects that are unlike those of residents and transients.[103]

Intelligence

Killer whales have the second-heaviest brains among marine mammals.[104] They can be trained in captivity and are often described as intelligent,[105][106] although defining and measuring "intelligence" is difficult in a species whose environment and behavioral strategies are very different from those of humans.[106]

Killer whales imitate others, and seem to deliberately teach skills to their kin. This is most strikingly seen when killer whales deliberately beach themselves to catch seals. Off Península Valdés, adults sometimes pull seals off the shoreline and then release them again near juvenile whales, allowing the younger whales to practice the difficult capture technique on the now-weakened prey. Off the Crozet Islands, mothers push their calves onto the beach, waiting to pull the youngster back if needed.[81][107]

People who have interacted closely with killer whales offer numerous anecdotes demonstrating the whales' curiosity, playfulness, and ability to solve problems. For example, Alaskan killer whales have not only learned how to steal fish from longlines, but have overcome a variety of techniques designed to stop them, such as the use of unbaited lines as decoys.[108] Once, fishermen placed their boats several miles apart, taking turns retrieving small amounts of their catch, in the hope that the whales would not have enough time to move between boats to steal fish as it was being retrieved. A researcher described what happened next:

"It worked really well for a while. Then the whales split into two groups. It didn't even take them an hour to figure it out. They were so thrilled when they figured out what was going on, that we were playing games. They were breaching by the boats."
—Craig Matkin[108]

In other anecdotes, researchers describe incidents in which wild killer whales playfully tease humans by repeatedly moving objects that the humans are trying to reach,[109] or suddenly start to toss around a chunk of ice after a human throws a snowball.[110]

The killer whale's use of dialects and the passing of other learned behaviours from generation to generation have been described as a form of culture.[111]

The complex and stable vocal and behavioural cultures of sympatric groups of killer whales (Orcinus orca) appear to have no parallel outside humans and represent an independent evolution of cultural faculties.[6]


Relationship with humans

Indigenous cultures

The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest Coast feature killer whales throughout their history, art, spirituality and religion. The Haida regarded killer whales as the most powerful animals in the ocean, and their mythology tells of killer whales living in houses and towns under the sea. According to these myths, killer whales took on human form when submerged, and humans who drowned went to live with them.[122] For the Kwakwaka'wakw, the killer whale was regarded as the ruler of the undersea world, with sea lions for slaves and dolphins for warriors.[122] In Kwakwaka'wakw and Nuu-chah-nulth mythology, killer whales may embody the souls of deceased chiefs.[122] The Tlingit of southeastern Alaska regarded the killer whale as custodian of the sea and a benefactor of humans.[123]

The Maritime Archaic people of Newfoundland also had great respect for killer whales, as evidenced by stone carvings found in a 4,000 year old burial site at the Port au Choix National Historic Site.[124][125]

In the tales and beliefs of the Siberian Yupik people, killer whales are said to appear as wolves in winter, and wolves as killer whales in summer.[126][127][128][129] Killer whales are believed to assist their hunters in driving walrus.[130] Reverence is expressed in several forms: the boat represents the animal, and a wooden carving hung from the hunter's belt.[128] Small sacrifices such as tobacco are strewn into the sea for them.[130] Killer whales were believed to have helped the hunters even when in wolf guise, by forcing reindeer to allow themselves to be killed.[129]

"Killer" stereotype

In Western cultures, killer whales were historically feared as dangerous, savage predators.[131] The first written description of a killer whale was given by Pliny the Elder in circa AD 70, who wrote, "Orcas (the appearance of which no image can express, other than an enormous mass of savage flesh with teeth) are the enemy of [other whales]... they charge and pierce them like warships ramming."[132]

There have been very few confirmed attacks on humans by wild killer whales, none of which has been fatal.[133] In one instance, killer whales tried to tip ice floes on which a dog team and photographer of the Terra Nova Expedition was standing.[134] There is speculation that the sled dogs' barking may have sounded enough like seal calls to trigger the killer whale's hunting curiosity. In the 1970s, a surfer in California was bitten, and in 2005 a boy in Alaska who was splashing in a region frequented by harbor seals was bumped by a killer whale that apparently misidentified him as prey.[135] Unlike wild killer whales, captive killer whales are reported to have made nearly two dozen attacks on humans since the 1970s, some of which have been fatal.[136][137]

Competition with fishermen also led to killer whales being regarded as pests. In the waters of the Pacific Northwest and Iceland, the shooting of killer whales was accepted and even encouraged by governments.[131] As an indication of the intensity of shooting that occurred until fairly recently, about 25% of the killer whales captured in Puget Sound for aquaria through 1970 bore bullet scars.[138] The U.S. Navy claimed to have deliberately killed hundreds of killer whales in Icelandic waters in 1956.[139][140]


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