February 12, 2012 Predators part 2 - Killer Whale
Killer whales just might have a Leopard seal or a Weddell seal for lunch. The killer whale is the only known, natural predator of the leopard seal and both are predators of the Weddell sea. These whales are aggressive hunters that will leap up out of the water and pull seals right off the ice. They will even eat other whales.
Orcas, (Antarctic killer whales) are also known as the wolves of the sea. They are found in all the oceans of the world. A little research showed me the killer whale is sometimes compared to a wolf because it is a predator and because Orcas travel and hunt in a pod like wolves hunt in a pack. There can be as many as forty killer whales hunting together in a pod.
A Whale Family
A pod is like a family where whales protect each other and care for their young. The males are called bulls. The females are called cows. What do you think the baby whales are called? Calves! At birth, “these” babies can weigh 400 pounds and be 8½ feet long. WHAT A BABY!!! As an adult, they can grow to about 20,000 pounds and 30 feet in length.
My What Big Teeth You Have!
These carnivores have sharp teeth four inches long and may have 40-52 teeth packed into their huge, powerful jaws. Human adults can have 32 but our teeth are certainly not four inches long! How many teeth do you have in your mouth right now?
Who is the Predator?
Whales have no natural enemies but they do have predators. The predators are humans. In some parts of the world, people hunt whales and kill them for food. Scientists studying whales have found out that man-made chemicals sometimes get into the ocean water and the marine food chain. This may cause the death of some whales.
Oil spills are a danger. Ship collisions happen and sometimes whales get tangled in fishing nets. Even if the whales themselves are not caught, some of the prey that they eat may be caught by humans. This can upset the whole food chain.
Links on the Chain
Here in Antarctica, scientists research animals both on the land and in the water so we can all understand more about the Antarctic food chain and the lives of these incredible predators and prey. I wake-up each day and look forward to learning new things. It’s very exciting working with the scientists in this icy laboratory! Maybe you will visit Antarctica one day and study with the scientists. You might even grow-up to be one of the scientists living here. Then you could give a tour to the visiting teachers!