Orca

They are also called ‘killer whales’ for their ability to take down large animals, such as whales

The largest extant dolphins! They have an eye-catching black and white body, mostly black on the back and white on the underside.

This coloration helps them to camouflage as they are searching for food. They have round and long bodies with large dorsal fins on their back. They live together in pods consisting of 3 to 50 individuals led by females.

These dolphins are sometimes called ‘wolves of the sea’ as they hunt like wolf packs for prey, such as seals, dolphins, smaller whales, sea lions, sea birds, turtles, squids, and even sharks!

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Antarctic ocean
25,000
DD
2017
Arctic Ocean
2017
Atlantic ocean
15,000
DD
2017
Indian ocean
2017
Pacific ocean
8,500
DD
2017
Tropical Pacific
Pacific ocean
2,250–2,700
DD
2017
Cooler northeast Pacific

Recent updates

March 2023: The Canadian government announced plans to establish a new marine protected area in the waters off the coast of British Columbia, which will provide important habitat for orcas as well as other marine wildlife.

Jan 2023: A new study published in the journal Conservation Biology found that the decline of Chinook salmon, a key prey species for many orca populations, is a major threat to the survival of these animals.

Sep 2022: US Congress has proposed a bill that would put an end to whale captivity in aquariums and theme parks across the United States. The bill would bar the importation, exportation, and breeding of whales for public display. It specifically targets orcas, beluga, pilot, and false killer whales, of which the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has listed 66 currently held in captivity in this country.  

Did you know?

  • Orcas are the second fastest marine mammals.
  • Many orcas in coastal waters don’t migrate; they occasionally travel for food.

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd / Group

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No