Because of their large size, big diet and amazing jumping abilities the killer whale is one of the most amazing and well-known marine mammals in history.
Although these marine mammals are commonly referred to as “killer whales” they actually belong to the dolphin family which is made up of around 40 different species of dolphin.
When you combine the killer whale with all of the other marine mammals in the cetacean family the killer whale makes up one of around 90 known species of cetacea.
For those unaware of what cetaceans are the cetacean family is a groups of marine mammals that are made up of all species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.
When it comes to how this marine mammal received its name the word “killer whale” comes from the fact that these marine mammals are the largest of all the dolphin species and as big as some whales.
They are also one of the most amazing hunters out of all of marine mammals.
In fact when compared to all of the other whales, dolphins and porpoises the killer whale has the most diverse diet of all known cetaceans.
When fully grown the killer whale can reach lengths of 26 ft. long and weigh over 6,000 pounds, however the largest measured killer whale grew to around 32 ft. long and weighed around 10 tons!
Killer whales are amazing hunters
When it comes to finding food to eat the killer whale can often be seen working together with other killer whales using teamwork to capture their prey.
In one strategy a group of killer whales may circle around a group of fish forcing them into a tight ball while another killer whale swims underneath them to push them towards the surface of the water.
The killer whales will then stun the fish by slapping them with their tails and then take turns swimming though the group and consuming the petrified fish.
Another strategy killer whales are known to use when hunting their prey is to tire their prey out.
When killer whales hunt for other marine mammals such as dolphins they will take turns chasing the dolphin until it is too tired to swim.
Once the dolphin is tired out the killer whales will then move in to capture prey.
When hunting for penguins or sea lions killer whales have been observed leaping onto icebergs in an attempt to catch their prey off guard and when hunting sharks killer whales will flip the shark over so that it cannot attack them.
As stated earlier the killer whales can be pretty diverse depending on where they live.
Some killer whales are known to consume various species of fish and squid as the main part of their diet while others may consume marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, walruses, penguins, dolphins and whales.
In fact some of the most interesting foods killer whales have been known to consume include:
- Polar Bears
In addition to hunting for food together killer whales are also capable of echolocation.
By using echolocation killer whales can search for food using sound.
This allows them to find food even when they are hunting at night and cannot see.
Killer whales love their family
When it comes to family killer whales are extremely family oriented and as many as four generations of family members may be seen traveling together.
In fact a single pod could consist of children, their parents and their grandparents.
Even after the children reach adulthood they can still be seen traveling alongside their mother.
Killer whales are extremely intelligent mammal and can learn complex tasks from observing and practicing what their peers do.
Killer whales have been observed teaching each other how to communicate, how to hunt and how to survive in the ocean.
Communication among these large animals involves creating high pitched clicks and whistles which they use to share their thoughts and feelings.
Killer whales can communicate many different things to one another such as that they have found nearby prey, that their is danger in the area or that they want to play.
How killer whales became so popular
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 living 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 in movies and television shows often being depicted as friendly intelligent marine mammals that are capable of performing amazing feats.
Some of the most popular movies killer whales have been featured in include Free Willy, Happy Feet and Namu: The killer whale.
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
1) Killer whales are also sometimes referred to as the Orca, Orca whale or Blackfish.
2) The killer whale is one of the only cetaceans (cetaceans include whales, dolphins and porpoises) known to hunt other marine mammals.
3) Because the killer whale is a marine mammal it is warm-blooded, produces milk, give birth to its young and requires air to breathe.
4)These marine mammals are capable of using echolocation to search for food and navigate the ocean at night and in dark environments.
5) Killer whales have been popularized by millions of people and made into icons throughout numerous cultures and can be seen in movies such as Free Willy and Happy Feet.
6) 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.
7) Killer whales are known to hunt everything from small dolphins (yes they hunt other dolphins) to blue whales (the largest known animal in existence).
8) 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.
9) 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.
10) 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.