The orca (Ornicus orca), typically called “killer whale”, is the largest member of the dolphin family. The name “killer whale” has been given to it because it can kill a large number of marine animals such as bony fish, sharks and rays. The conservation organizations do not use the name “killer whale” for this animal so as to avoid any kind of disbeliefs about these intelligent creatures. Normally, “orca” is used to address them. Orcas tend to attack any animal that they come across under the waters in the ocean or along the coastline. These animals serve as food for the orcas. Orcas have long, black, rounded bodies. Their bodies are covered with white patches and they have large dorsal fins at the middle of their backs.
The weight of the orcas is, generally, up to 6 tons (5,443 kilograms) and their length varies from 23 to 32 feet, equivalent to the length of a school bus. As per the data from Sea World, the largest ever orca was 32 feet (9.8 m) long.
So, to know these creatures more, here are some interesting facts about them that will leave you amazed.
Intelligent and Smart Creatures
The orcas are highly intelligent and smart. They tend to swim in pods (a group of whales) in the ocean. The pods are very well organized and generally, led by females. They make pods of usually, 5-30 whales or sometimes form a group of 100 or more. Orcas are found to be one of the most intelligent of all the animals. To keep their calves safe, they can even fool the group of humans trying to hunt them. It is interesting to mention that they don’t tend to attack humans.
Orcas, interestingly, communicate using the process called “Echolocation”. Orcas produce sound waves while swimming and these sound waves reflect back from the objects in the waters. This echo helps them indentify the kind of creature swimming by them in the ocean or what kind of object lies in their way. This process helps them to hunt for food.
Orcas have long, conical shaped and interlocking teeth. They can have up to 56 teeth. They use their teeth for tearing or ripping their food. They don’t chew food, generally. They swallow their food whole.
Range and Habitat
Orcas are found in all oceans worldwide. They are the most widely spread mammals after humans. They are very common in the northeast Atlantic around the Norwegian coast, in the north Pacific along the Aleutian Islands, the Gulf of Alaska and in the Southern Ocean (Antarctica).
The killer whales are worldwide distributed, so, it’s difficult to assess their exact numbers. However, they are estimated to be 50,000 in numbers all over the world.
Orcas have a gestation period of 13 to 16 months. The calf is usually, born in autumn season. At birth, the calf weighs about 400 pounds and is up to seven feet in length. The mother protects and keeps its calf with itself for about two years.
Lovers of Liberty
It is difficult to capture orcas. They like to swim in open sea in their pods. They are lovers of freedom and if held captive, they become hostile and can attack each other.
Food preferences (Diet)
The killer whales are apex predators and hunt varied prey including fish, mammals, sea birds, sea lions and sea turtles. All the marine animals serve as their food.
Care for the young ones
Orcas are very caring and protective of their young ones. In fact, other female adults also help the mother in protecting the calves.
An estimated maximum life expectancy of male orcas is 60 to 70 years and of female orcas is 80 to more than 100 years. When held captive, the average age is 9 years.