The name “killer whale” is a bit deceptive — killer whales are actually dolphins, the only living species in the Orcinus genus. They are killers, though.
Orcas aren’t the docile giants seen in Free Willy, these massive, highly intelligent mammals are one of the ocean’s apex predators. Orcas will feed on almost anything, from birds to sharks to seals to whales. Seals, though, may have it the worst. Orcas will beach themselves to get at floundering seals, create waves to knock them off floating pieces of ice, and will drag seals to their doom while they try to rest (this GIF will probably ruin your day, but it’s a jungle out there). As fast as the relatively tiny mammals are, killer whales are almost inescapable.
And as if to establish themselves as the top of the food chain, orcas even play with their food — perhaps a consequence of their intelligence. Case-in-point: Mike Walker, owner of Roll Focus Productions, captured an orca catapulting a seal dozens of feet into the air, for fun:
A male orca named T69C launched this harbour seal out of the waters near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Walker told the Huffington Post that it’s only the fourth time he’s seen a punt like that in 20 years.
Fast and agile, seals can and do escape orcas despite their intelligence and coordination, but the math says this one probably wasn’t so lucky. Let’s say that the 130 kilogram harbour seal was launched, as Walker reports, 20 meters into the air. At the peak of its arc, the seal has a potential energy of around 26,000 Joules. If the seal then hits the water and plunges to a depth of maybe less than a meter, then the seal just experienced an impact akin to a car crash, except its body is the car. And think of how strong an orca’s tail must be to throw hundreds of pounds higher than most homes.
Didn’t anyone teach this orca that it’s not polite to subject food to car crash forces at the dinner table?
IMAGES: Roll.Focus. Productions