Greetings from the deep blue, Defenders! Our current Animal of the Week is a pretty well known animal, found all across the world! Since our planet is primarily covered in oceans that means we’ve got a marine animal this time. It’s none other than the Killer Whale, also known as the Orca! Orcas are in the toothed whale family, which actually means they are technically dolphins. Their closest relative is the snub-fin dolphin. These majestic creatures swim up to 40 miles each day, diving down up to 500 feet for exercise and food. However, seeing as they actually are mammals, they need to come back to the surface to breathe! Animals in the dolphin and whale families are known as “cetaceans”, or marine mammals, as they are mammals that live in the ocean.
Why do they call them Killer Whales?
As we’ve stated above, Orcas are often known as Killer Whales. However, this isn’t connected to their relationship with humans as Orcas don’t typically attack humans. They mainly get this name from being at the top of the food chain in their habitat, and their ability to take down large marine mammals like whales and seals. Killer Whales also are very large in size, reaching up to 32 feet long, and their black & white coloring often gives off an ominous energy in the ocean. Other than humans, Orcas are the most widely distributed mammals on the planet, so while they don’t prey upon us, they are extremely strong and lethal predators to many other animals.
How long do Orcas live?
In the animal kingdom, larger animals usually have longer lives. The Orca is no exception to this rule as their lifespan ranges between 50 to 80 years. Every 3 to 10 years a female will give birth to just one offspring at a time. A baby orca is known as a calf and many are over 8 feet long at birth! While the lifespan has an estimated top of 80 years, studies have shown that Orcas living past that even up to 100 years isn’t uncommon.
What kills Killer Whales?
Being such large and powerful cetaceans, many often wonder what animals prey on the killer whale? Well the truth is, they have no real predators! Orcas are apex predators, animals at the very top of the food chain in their own habitat. While they may not be the largest creatures in the sea, they do not interact with animals like the colossal squid, because these creatures live in vastly different depths of the ocean. Killer Whales have been known to prey upon many marine animals including whales bigger than themselves. A pod of Orcas often work together to catch prey. In fact, they share their habitat with another apex predator, the Great White Shark…and when it comes to head on battles the Orca ends up on top!
Are Killer Whales friendly?
Looking at the biological facts, Killer Whales should consider humans a tasty treat, yet attacks on humans are not common at all. Observations have led us to a few possible answers. Orcas seem to follow rules beyond just their instincts, and actually have different cultures the way humans do. Orcas have even been shown to have their own versions of funerals. One idea is that it’s not a part of Orca culture to attack humans. A more scientific take is that we just don’t taste good to Orcas so they leave us alone. Whatever the truth may be, humans can rest easy that these Killer Whales don’t consider us prey.
What are Type D Orcas?
In January 2019, scientists spotted an elusive family of Orcas that were only known from rumors and rare sightings beforehand. These “Type D” Orcas were found off the coast of Cape Horn, Chile. The physical differences of these Orcas include very small white eye patches, as well as pointier dorsal fins and rounder heads. These special Orcas were first seen in 1955 but it took another 50 years before they were recorded on film. Scientists are hoping to use this recent interaction to learn more about the geographic range of Type D Orcas, as well as figuring out whether these killer whales are actually a distinct species.