Although these marine mammals are called “Killer whales” they actually belong to the dolphin family which consists of about 40 different species.
All together the killer whales make up one of around 80 known species of cetaceans which includes all species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.
The name “killer whale” comes from the fact that these marine mammals are the largest of all the dolphin species and are also one of the most amazing hunters of all marine mammals.
Some researchers and observers have even referred to killer whales as the wolves of the sea.
When fully matured these mammals can grow to lengths in excess of 26 ft. and weigh over 6,000 pounds.
In fact the largest killer whales measure in at around 30 ft. long!
When it comes to hunting for food they can often be seen working together using team oriented strategies to capture their prey.
One group of killer whales for instance may circle around a group of fish forcing them into a tight ball while another killer whale swims underneath them to herd them to the surface of the water.
They then stun the fish by slapping them or the water with their flukes and then take turns darting in and consuming the petrified fish.
These dolphins aren’t limited to just eating fish either.
Their diet can be pretty diverse and varies largely depending on where they live.
In fact some of the most interesting foods they have consumed include:
- Polar Bears
- The remains of other killer whales (most likely killer whales that died prior to being consumed.)
In addition to their amazing hunting methods they are also extremely family oriented and the children develop very close bonds with their mothers.
Even after reaching adulthood the children can still be seen traveling alongside their mothers in closely knit pods.
At times as many as four generations of family members may be seen traveling together.
Killer whales have highly developed social structures often compared to that of humans and elephants.
These mammals are extremely intelligent and can learn complex tasks from observing and practicing what their peers do, and have been observed teaching each other how to communicate, hunt and survive in the ocean.
In the 1960′s killer whales made their huge debut splash at marine shows.
One of the oldest known performing killer whales “Shamu” is still widely known today despite the fact that she has not been in performance for several decades.
Part of her fame came from her being one of the first killer whales to be successfully captured and being the first killer whale to survive in captivity for more than 13 months.
Today killer whales have become a main attraction to several aquatic theme parks performing flips and various acrobatic stunts and displaying their talents to thousands of people each year.
They have also become popular among movies and television often being depicted as friendly intelligent marine mammals that are capable of performing amazing feats.
As humans learn more about these amazing creatures they are likely to become even more popular and talked about.
10 Cool killer whale facts for kids
- Killer whales are also sometimes referred to as orca, orca whale and blackfish.
- The killer whale is one of the only cetaceans (cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoises) known to hunt other marine mammals.
- Because the killer whale is a marine mammal it is warm-blooded, produces milk, give birth to its young and requires air to breathe.
- These marine mammals are capable of using echolocation to search for food and navigate the ocean at night and in dark environments.
- Killer whales have been popularized and made into icons by todays culture and can be seen in movies such as Free Willy and Happy Feet.
- Killer whales can spend their entire lives with the family members separating only when searching for food or looking for a mating partner. In fact as many as four generations of family members may travel together in a single pod.
- Killer whales are known to hunt everything from small dolphins (yes they hunt other dolphins) to blue whales (the largest known animal in existence).
- Although these marine mammals have been known to occasionally attack their trainers they have never attempted to eat a person and aren’t known to attack people in the wild.
- Killer whales have the second largest brain of all marine mammals, second only to the sperm whale which is known to have the largest brain of any living animal.
- Killer whales can be found living in all of the worlds major oceans from the tropical environments in and around the equator to the polar regions of the northern and southern hemispheres.