Killer Whale Facts
Sure, killer whales have been in the news lately for taking names and sinking boats, but it's still not obvious why they're doing this. Some say they're out for revenge as a result of previous boat confrontations, while others believe it could be an act of play.
Regardless, the killer whale is one of the most interesting animals in the ocean. Group hunting, specialized hunting skills and high intelligence are all things that are unique to this fascinating marine mammal.
Find out what makes the killer whale so unique and why they need our protection now more than ever.
Orcas Live in Family Pods
Killer whales oftentimes live in large family groups called pods with up to 50 orcas.
In the animal kingdom, young often leave their mother and go out on their own; however, this isn't true for the killer whale, as there can be up to four generations in one pod.
A Killer Whale Is Actually a Dolphin
We know their name is misleading. Killer whales actually have the same taxonomy as dolphins, which differs a lot from their whale cousins.
This makes the killer whale the baddest, largest member of the dolphin family.
Orcas Are Masters of the Sea
Hunting, social interactions, knowledge of migration routes and feeding grounds are all things the killer whales must master to be successful in the ocean.
Mature members of orca pods pass down knowledge to younger generations.
Orcas Sleep With Just One-Half of Their Brain at a Time
Orcas can sleep with one hemisphere of their brain turned off and one turned on so that they never actually lose consciousness — because if they did, they would stop breathing.
When they sleep, they stay close to the surface so that they can easily take a breath.
Killer Whales Have a Similar Lifespan as Humans
Male killer whales can live up to 60 years, and females can live up to 90 years in the wild. In captivity, killer whales die sooner and have a shorter lifespan.
So, think twice before buying those Sea World tickets.
Killer Whales Travel Long Distances
Killer whales travel about 40 miles a day.
When they migrate, it's about a 7,000-mile round trip.
Orcas Are Pregnant for Around 17 Months
And similar to humans, they are only pregnant with one baby at a time.
They Have a Broad Diet
Killer whales will eat a lot: Seals, fish, rays, dolphins, sharks, whales, octopuses and squids all make up their diet.
Some pods have perfected hunting a certain kind of food and will focus on that, even teaching future generations how to hunt specific prey.
Orcas Face Many Threats
Killer whales are at the top of the food chain and have no natural predators in the ocean, so the biggest threat to orcas is humans. In fact, whaling (the act of hunting whales) is still practiced in Japan, Indonesia and Greenland.
Killer whales also face common threats that most marine life does, such as getting caught in fishing nets or the biggest culprit of them all: pollution from plastic and toxic spills.
An Orca's IQ Is Equivalent to That of a 15- or 16-Year-Old Human
Killer whales are known as some of the most intelligent animals in the ocean.
They have their own groups and social systems, their own language and communication systems, and they pass on skills from generation to generation.
They're the Baddies of the Ocean
Yes, killer whales have been sinking yachts, but it's hard to deny that it is indeed badass after all the harm humans have caused the species. As previously stated, there is a debate amongst scientists about whether White Gladis, the killer whale that started the initiative, is doing so out of trauma or if she sees it as a fun, playful game. Regardless, other killer whales have started following suit.
You know what else is cool? In a fight between an orca and a white shark, the orca has the advantage, due to its intelligence and pack hunting abilities.