Scientific name: Orcinus orca
Conservation Status: Data deficient
Lifespan: Female: 29 years (In captivity), Male: 17 years (In captivity)
Mass: Male: 3,600 kg (Adult), Female: 1,400 kg (Adult)
Length: 8.7 m (Adult)
More About Orca Facts:
Orcas, or killer whales, are not actually whales but the largest member of the dolphin family Delphinidae. They first got their name from sailors who witnessed them attacking large whales. Orcas are live in tight social groups, hunting cooperatively. They can reach lengths of 30 feet and weigh 8 to 9 tons.
Males are larger than females and have an enormous dorsal fin that can stand 6 feet tall when adult. Different populations of orcas have specialized diets, hunting techniques, and dialects in which they communicate with one another which are passed down through generations.
The orca, or killer whale, is the largest and most widely distributed of the Delphinids, the family of cetaceans which includes dolphins and porpoises. The orca is the largest member of this family and is easily recognizable by its striking black and white coloration. Orcas are at the top of the food chain and have no natural predators.
Orca Facts & Tidbits
- The enormous dorsal fin of an adult male can be 6 feet tall.
- Adult male Orca are larger than females and can reach lengths between 30 and 35 feet, adult females are between 20 and 25 feet.
- They communicate with other members of their pod using clicks and whistles. Pods can be recognized by their distinct “dialect”.
- The orca is a social animal that stays together in tightly knit family groups called pods. These pods are matriarchal, in which a female is the pod leader.
Killer whales are the most widely distributed mammal on the planet (aside from humans) and are found in all oceans, however, they prefer regions of colder waters. They inhabit nearshore and offshore waters but are generally found in waters less than 200 meters in depth.
Orca do not “migrate” seasonally like many other cetaceans, instead, they move in order to locate prey.
IUCN Status: Data deficient / Population Trend: Unknown
In the United States, the Southern Resident population of killer whales found in the Pacific Northwest are listed as endangered under the ESA (Endangered Species Act).
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Photo Credit: Dreamstime