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Orca - Killer whale

Killer whales are notable for their complex societies; only elephants and higher primates, such as humans or chimps, live in comparably complex social structures.

This large and robust species has a very tall dorsal fin, which can reach up to 2m in males. This fin has a black and white coloration with a unique distribution in each individual, which allows researchers to distinguish all individuals of a group. They have a diverse diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt mammals, or even on birds. Killer whales are regarded as lacking natural predators. They are social animals and often remain in tight family groups for their lifespan, which can be over 50 years of age.

Orcas are found in all oceans and seas, but they clearly prefer higher latitudes and coastal areas. They can occasionally be found in the waters of Ireland, and in Western and Northern Scotland between May and September, although they are rare. If you are lucky, though, here you may see individuals from the Type 1 North Atlantic population in the far North of Scotland and Southern Orkneys between May and July, and the Type 2 North Atlantic population along the West coast between July and September. In the Strait of Gibraltar (Tarifa) they are semi-resident, and can easily be seen during spring and summer. In the Canary Islands they are occasional, and they might be seen all year round close to all islands, as they pass following pods of tuna.

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Orca - Killer whale

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