Orcas, or "Killer" Whales
Orca whales have always fascinated me. While they are also called "killer" whales, they are actually majestic, social marine mammals. Below, you will find some interesting facts about the orca, videos I like, and a few useful links.
If you have any other information you'd like to share, please leave a comment in the comment box below.
Orca Whale Anatomy
Orca Whale Facts
- Orca whales are highly social mammals and the largest species in the dolphin family. An orca group is called a pod.
- Female orcas, or cows, usually have five calves during their lifetime and live to be around 50.
- Male orcas, or bulls, live to about 45. Both males and females have been documented to almost 90 although this is rare.
- Male orcas on average are 23 feet long and 7-10 tons; female orcas are on average 21 feet long and 4-6 tons
- Orcas can be found in all of earth's oceans, from the cold Antarctic to the warmer Pacific, but they prefer the cooler waters.
- Orcas can swim up to 30 mph.
- Whales have up to nine times more myoglobin in their blood than humans. Myoglobin carries oxygen through their bodies and helps them hold their breath longer.
Video: Orcas Working Together to Hunt
This is my favorite orca video. Three or four orcas are working together to create a wave to push a sea lion off a large piece of ice. In this particular video they are teaching their young how to hunt.
Types of Orcas
- Orcas can be classified into three groups: Resident orcas are the most commonly seen and are found in the northeastern Pacific waters. They primarily eat fish; Transient orcas feed primarily on marine mammals, not fish, and travel alone or in smaller pods of 2-6 orcas; Offshore orcas feed on fish, sharks, and turtles and can be found in pods of up to 60 whales.
- Transient orcas were first thought to be outcasts, hence the name. According to recent genetic research, they are in fact a different community, and have not interbred with resident or offshore orcas for 10,000 years.
- Orcas have social hierarchies usually led by a female.
Video: Orcas Playing with Prey
This footage is unbelievable. Watch through to the end. The orcas play with the sea lion pup by tossing it back and forth like a ball,.
- Orcas are verbal animals and, like other mammals in the ocean, use echolocation to find prey and navigate their surroundings.
- Each of these three different types of orcas has its own verbal patterns. Resident orcas are much more vocal than transients. It is believed that this is because transient orcas feed mainly on marine mammals that have acute underwater hearing and need to be silent to hunt successfully. Resident orcas feed on fish that have poor underwater hearing so being vocal does not affect their hunting capabilities.
- Even individual orca pods use different learned dialects to communicate. Each pod has its own set of sounds that distinguish them from other pods. Mother orcas have been recorded teaching their calves the pod dialect in a simpler form, like a human mother teaches her child to speak.
Video: Orca Whale versus a Great White
Orcas are mammals that feed on fish and other sea mammals. They have been known to eat other large whales and even great white sharks.
Video: Orcas Spy Hopping
Orcas will "spy hop," or peek above the surface, in order to see what is happening above the water, especially in icy waters, to see if seals or other animals are lying on the ice.
Threats to Orca Whales
- Whaling is no longer the biggest threat to whales. In 1972 the Marine Mammal Act began protecting these magnificent animals.
- However, there has been a 20% decline in killer whale population since 1995. One major cause is human contamination of their waters. Recent studies have found that they are among the most contaminated marine mammals.
- Pollutants stored in the whale's blubber may be released into the body when the whale hunts. This occurs at an increasing rate because noise pollution in ocean water effects orca echolocation, forcing the whales to work harder to find their food. University of Washington researchers found that whale watching boat traffic decreased the whale's use of sonar by 95-99%.
Video: The Woman who Swims with Killer Whales
In this amazing footage from the BBC, a woman from New Zealand shares her passion to understand and protect orca whales.
A Few Useful Links on Orca Whales
The Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society
- Adopt an Orca
Adopt an orca and support field studies of the orca in the Pacific Northwest.
- The Center for Whale Research
A site dedicated to Orcas
Wikipedia's page on Orca Whales
AshimaTan on January 28, 2015:
Wow! The videos are great… Loved reading it… You've gathered some really cool facts. Cheers!
Smart on February 21, 2013:
Did you realized that wasn't a true great white, it looked more like a lemon or bull shark.
whowas on October 10, 2012:
That's a very useful and informative hub about these wonderful animals. It's a shame that the whale vs. kayak video doesn't seem to be working, I was curious to see that!
For anyone who is interested in helping save these creatures from the threats that you have outlined here, the following link might prove useful: http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/safeguarding_the_...
Thanks again for a great hub.
Brandon on October 01, 2012:
This was really helpful for my science project! And i like Orcas. Did you know Titanic used an Orca in their movie? Buetiful animals.
louromano on March 21, 2012:
Nice video. Nice article. Thanks for sharing.
Aracely on February 05, 2012:
I love killer whales but I hate when sharks gets in the way!!!
Sarah on January 10, 2012:
I loved watching the killer whale vs great white video!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
girl on January 01, 2012:
i love orcas ther my favorit animal i love them and i whant to learn more every day and now i learn even more to day ceep posting more
Adrian on November 30, 2011:
A team from Caltech in Pasadena, CA recorded a pod of killer whales and confirmed their communication contained 14 million parts of information, the entire Holy Bible only contains 4 million.
jihee on October 31, 2011:
i think that this article is so much fun iwould start doing a projest on this for sure
makaelaa on September 12, 2011:
i like killer whales. my name is makaelaa allen. i love killer whales so much.
mohaqmed ismail on August 31, 2011:
its really a useful message to all
Becca on August 27, 2011:
Orcas are gentle curious and sweet.They are not killers they are kind and trained. So please don't think of them killers.Please.:)
ChristinCordle12 on July 05, 2011:
Excellent hub! The content and the videos are excellent making it very interesting!
laurie on March 06, 2011:
My favorite animal!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 12 times more intelligent then anny dolphin. :D
mythbuster from Utopia, Oz, You Decide on September 07, 2010:
Nice article about killer whales. I enjoyed the videos, as well, particularly the one where young killer whales are being taught to hunt - "the wave" technique.
Killer Whales on April 18, 2010:
This Helped Me On My Project.!(:
Thank You For The Interesting Facts.!!!
SAVE THE KILLER WHALES
Laurel from Germany on June 27, 2009:
Great article! I really enjoyed it and loved the videos.
hello on May 27, 2009:
Love Orcas They are my favourite animals from now on. they are the best ever.
PS: Thanks It helped me a lot in my essay.
hi on April 06, 2009:
name me five facts about orcas
something on February 04, 2009:
This is so awesome! I love killer whales! But I still feel sorry for sea lions! :(
C.S.Alexis from NW Indiana on May 22, 2008:
This was interesting. These large creatures are amazing.
jen on January 24, 2008:
Orca whales are the largest species in the dolphin family.
Balie on October 14, 2007:
Did you know that killer whales (orcas) are accually a type of dolphin? They also are not "killer" but they are very gentle and curiuos. They love to be around others. There are no cases of killer whales hurting or eating a human.
Robin Edmondson (author) from San Francisco on January 05, 2007:
Thanks, Ralph. It was a fun hub to make. Which video didn't work?
Ralph Deeds from Birmingham, Michigan on January 05, 2007:
Great hub! I watched all the videos except on that wasn't available. Pictures and especially videos make for more interesting Hubs. Watching it made me want to go out and buy a video camera so that I could take videos of the birds and animals in our back yard. And of sailing.