1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Grampus

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search

GRAMPUS (Orca gladiator, or Orca orca), a cetacean belonging to the Delphinidae or dolphin family, characterized by its rounded head without distinct beak, high dorsal fin and large conical teeth. The upper parts are nearly uniform glossy black, and the under parts white, with a strip of the same colour over each eye. The O. Fr. word was grapois, graspeis or craspeis, from Med. Lat. crassus piscus, fat fish. This was adapted into English as grapeys, graspeys, &c., and in the 16th century becomes graunde pose as if from grand poisson. The final corruption to "grampus" appears in the 18th century and was probably nautical in origin. The animal is also known as the "killer," in allusion to its ferocity in attacking its prey, which consists largely of seals, porpoises and the smaller dolphins. Its fierceness is only equalled by its voracity, which is such that in a specimen measuring 21 ft. in length, the remains of thirteen seals and thirteen porpoises were found, in a more or less digested state, while the animal appeared to have been choked in the endeavour to swallow another seal, the skin of which was found entangled in its teeth. These cetaceans sometimes hunt in packs or schools, and commit great havoc among the belugas or white whales, which occasionally throw themselves ashore to escape their persections. The grampus is an inhabitant of northern seas, occurring on the shores of Greenland, and having been caught, although rarely, as far south as the Mediterranean. There are numerous instances of its capture on the British coasts. (See Cetacea.)