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Orcas (killer whales)

How do killer whales adapt to their environment?

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January 23, 2014 7:58PM

The killer whale's environment is aquatic (marine). It already has numerous adaptations, so it does not need to still adapt. Adaptations of the killer whale, also known as the orca, include:

  • They are among the fastest marine mammals, able to swim at speeds of up to 45 km per hour.
  • They can conserve energy by cruising at lower speeds for long periods of time.
  • They are quite agile in the water, which helps them to escape from predators, and to hunt down prey.
  • The body shape of a killer whale is streamlined to allow for speed in the water.
  • They are capable of riding waves, which is one way to conserve energy.
  • Young calves swim in the mother's "slip stream", enabling them to keep up.
  • Killer whales are capable of diving more than 100m (the deepest dive ever recorded was 274m).
  • When they dive, killer whales have a slower heart rate, while protein molecules such as haemoglobin and myoglobin store oxygen in body tissue, enabling a more energy and oxygen-efficient dive.
  • They have a layer of blubber to keep warm in cold temperatures.
  • They have strong pectoral fins to help them steer and they stop with the help of flukes (end of the tail).
  • Their dorsal fins help to stabilize them when they are reaching high speeds.