Yes the killer whale is a mammal.
When fully grown the killer whale can measure in at up to 32 ft. long (16 – 26 ft. on average) and weight as much as 6 tons (3 – 4.5 tons on average).
The killer whale gets its name from the fact that it is the largest of the dolphin species and its size rivals several of the whale species.
Its name also comes from the fact that it is one of the most amazing hunters of all of the cetacean species and has the most diverse diet of all species.
In regards to the cetacean species all cetaceans are marine mammals and belong to one of two suborders which are known as the baleen whale and toothed whale suborders.
Killer whales fall into the toothed whale suborder, which consists of a number of whale species along with all species of dolphin and porpoise.
As stated before killer whales are actually considered dolphins which is why they are part of the toothed whale suborder.
The baleen whale suborder consists solely of large whales that possess baleen plates instead of teeth.
All marine mammals share many of the same characteristics as land mammals including:
- Breathing air
- Do dolphins have hair? (Not all cetaceans have hair)
- Are dolphins warm-blooded
- Giving birth
- Producing milk
When it comes to food killer whales have been known to hunt and eat everything from a variety of fish and squid to large marine mammals such as walruses, sea lions seals and whales.
Some of the most interesting foods these marine mammals have been known to consume include:
- Polar bears
- The remains of killer whales
Killer whales are also equipped with echolocation which allows them to search for food using sound.
This is especially useful in detecting prey at night or in dark waters.
Migration is often determined by food supply and killer whales are more likely to move where their food migrates to rather than migrating for mating purposes.
Migration and eating habits are also determined by where killer whales live.
Killer whales can be found swimming in most of the worlds major oceans.
The average life expectancy of killer whales is around 30 – 50 years, however some females have been known to live as long as 70 years.
In captivity the killer whale is known to typically live into its 20’s.
Both male and female killer whales reach sexual maturity around the age of 15 although males usually wait until around the age of 21 to start mating and reproducing offspring.
During their fertile years female killer whales generally produce a single offspring once every 4 – 6 years and gestation periods can last anywhere from 15 – 18 months.
After birth the female will nurse her offspring anywhere from 6 – 24 months or until the child breaks its psychology dependency on the mother and is able to hunt for food and survive on is own.
An adult killer whale may also hunt for food and share it with the children and adults of their pod.