Killer Whales

Orcas, Orcinus Orca in Latin, or also known as Killer Whales are well known for their distinctive shiny black backs, and white chests and sides; as well as their dominant dorsal fin.  An orca can grow as large as thirty-two feet long and weigh as much as nine tons.  The orca’s dorsal fin can grow up to six feet tall.  The male orca is larger than the female and has a larger, and stronger dorsal fin.

Orcas stay in pods.  Pods are groups of orcas and can range from only a few orcas to more than 50.  Pods are often made up of several females, calves (young whales), and a few males (sometimes none or only one male).  Pods of orcas are found in every ocean around the world.  Orcas seem to be more abundant in the colder regions then the warmer regions.  Orcas are very social creatures and communicate with each other in their pod by using clicks, whistles, and singing.  They are also very playful.  They like to jump out of the water, do flips, and simply slap the top of the water.  Orcas are not known to have any natural predators.  They do not migrate either.  However, orcas do move around to find food.  Food can range from small schools of fish, to sea lions, to sharks.

There are three different types of pods.  Residential pods are groups of orcas that stay in the same area.  They might move around looking for food, but they do not go far.  These pods are the easiest to study.

Transient pods swim mostly underwater and can be found near shore, or far off shore.  These pods are a bit more difficult to study then the resident pods.

Offshore pods travel all the time.  They do not stay in one spot for very long.  These pods travel from one spot to the next, and then to another.  Some pods seem to be always traveling and never stay in one spot.  These pods are very difficult to study because of them moving around so much.

Most pods are matriarchal.  Matriarchal pods are made up of families.  Mother orcas give birth to their babies and as the babies grow, they stay with the mother.  These pods can be made up of many generations of an orca’s family.

Some pods, however, are not matriarchal.  Orcas join and leave these pods at anytime.  The pods are continually changing.  These pods are more often found offshore as well.