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By Tracy Woods Killer Whales Gentle Giants or Viscous Killers Killer whales are an important subject of mythology for many indigenous peoples especially the Native Americans of the Pacific Northwest The whales have not been hunted extensively by humans although they have been hunted by some shore whaling operations and some individuals have been taken as aquarium show animals from the waters around the Pacific Northwest and Iceland Killer whales are perceived by many near-shore fishermen to be in competition with human fishing activity Anheiser Busch 1 The killer whale or Orcinus orca can be found worldwide in all seas from both tropics to Arctic and Antarctic oceans They are one of the most well known whales because of the captivity of Shamu at Sea World and the other studies that are widely publicized 2 The male killer whale has an average length of 67 to 70 meters and can weigh between 4000 to 5000 kilograms Knight 5 The female killer whales are smaller having a length of 55 to 65 meters and weighing 2500 to 3000 kilograms They have 10 to 12 pairs of large conical teeth in each jaw Evans 12 Their coloration is very striking They have black on the back and sides and a white belly that extends as a rear-pointing lobe up the flukes and less markedly near the head and around the throat 15 They are also white on the chin and underside of their flippers with a distinctive conspicuous white oval patch above and behind each eye This coloration varies depending on regional variations Killer whales can have indistinct gray saddles over their backs just behind their dorsal fin Evans 16 This is called countershading Countershading enables the whales to be camouflaged from their prey Wolfe lecture They have a stout torpedo-shaped body with a conical-shaped head Their flippers are large rounded and paddle-shaped with a centrally-placed dorsal fin The dorsal fin is sickle-shaped in adult females
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