We think that orcas are incredible creatures for a myriad of reasons and we wanted to share as many as possible as well as some interesting facts and information about orcas that you might not know.
1) Just as we have different languages, orca communities are known to have different vocal sounds.
2) Orcas are also known as killer whales, this can sometimes cause people to believe that they are whales when really they are dolphins!
3) They are apex predators in the ocean, meaning that they have no natural predators. Some orcas purely hunt other marine mammals and don't even see fish as food where as other pods of orca, such as the Southern resident orcas, will feed exclusively on fish.
4) The diet of an orca can include fish, seals, squid, penguins, marine mammals and sea birds.
5) There are very few records of orcas attacking humans in the wild and no fatalities. They can be very inquisitive, and will often come up to boats and kayaks to investigate. In 2020 there were a number of reports of orcas 'attacking' ships off the coast of Spain, they would go for the rudder and many ships needed to be towed back to port. The attacks have been traced back to three individuals and biologists and researchers have speculated that they are merely playing.
6) At present it is estimated that there are around 50,000 orcas throughout the oceans around the world. The most well-studied orca population has approximately 2,500 and is located in the eastern North Pacific Ocean.
7) Orcas are very social creatures, they travel in groups called pods of between 5 and 30 members.
8) Orca pods function under a matriarchal hierarchy, meaning that the older females are responsible for the success of the pod, they have extensive knowledge of where to find food and will share the food with other members of the pod, rather than just their own offspring.
9) They will swim up to 40 miles a day to forage for food and exercising.
10) Orcas will dive 100 to 500 feet, several times a day, every day.
11) You can usually spot pods of orcas in the Arctic and Antarctic but they can also be found off the west coast of the United States and Canada as well as some off the coast of Scotland.
12) Every individual orca has a unique mark behind their dorsal fin that is as specific to them as a fingerprint is to a human.
13) Orcas give birth to a single baby every 3 - 10 years (pregnancy lasts around 17 months) and they will nurse their young for up to 2 years.
14) Orcas are often referred to as 'killer whales' despite them not actually being whales. They get this name from ancient sailors who observed a pod of orca hunting larger whales! They dubbed them 'whale killers' and somewhere along the line this name was swapped around.
15) These marine mammals have no sense of smell! However they make up for this with their hearing, which is better than dogs and even bats.
16) Male orcas have a taller dorsal fin than females, they can grow to 1.8 meters and are generally straight. Females and juveniles dorsal fins are about half the size with a distinct sickle-shape.
17) Orcas are the largest species of dolphin, with the males reaching between 6 m- 8 m and the females between 5 m – 7 m. In mass the adult female orcas will reach between 1,400 kg – 2,700 kg, whilst the males are between 3,600 kg – 5,400 kg.
18) In the wild an adult orca may eat up to 375 pounds of food each day as they use a lot of energy swimming miles and miles in the open ocean, however orcas held in captivity will only be fed 150 - 300 pounds of fish.
19) Orcas are one of 5 species in the world that don't continue to reproduce until death. They have evolved to stop reproducing because they remain in the pods they are born into for life. As the matriarchy of the pod ages they become related to more of the pod and it is in the pods best interest to preserve the gene pool and as a result the older females can focus on teaching and passing on knowledge to the rest of the pod.
20) The orcas found in the seas around New Zealand are well versed in hunting sharks and rays and will often be spotted hunting around rocky reefs and even hunting in shallow waters. Orcas are also thought to be terrifying great white sharks, this comes after reports of great white shark carcasses washing up on South African beaches over the last few years after being targeted for their livers by orcas.
Orca Awareness Month
June is Orca Awareness month which is why this month Ocean Helper has chosen to support Wild Orca! Their mission is to save the southern resident orcas from extinction through research, education, awareness and action!
This month we are donating 10% of gross profits to Wild Orca to support their fight to protect the southern resident orcas.
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