Scientific name: Orcinus orca
Orca whales are the apex predator of the ocean, meaning they are at the top of the food chain and have no predators. They are found all around the world in our oceans. Orcas are actually dolphins, not whales. They are the largest dolphin in the world- weighing up to 14,000 pounds.
Orcas will hunt marine mammals like seals, dolphins, and sea lions, and large fish like tuna and salmon. They will even hunt sharks and have been filmed hunting white sharks!
Some of the orcas favorite food choices are large fish, seals, and sharks.
Orcas mostly hunt in groups, and they are dedicated and loyal to the other individuals in their pod. Some orcas will never leave their mothers side.
Orcas are very smart and scientists have concluded that orcas are "self aware," because they recognize themselves in mirrors. They are curious too, and will swim over to investigate divers and boats on their own.
Orcas are mammals and breathe air, like us, but they are perfectly adapted to the ocean. They swim up to 30 miles per hour and can dive up to 90 ft if they want. They swim hundreds of miles a day and can cross oceans with their pod.
Orcas communicate with one another using clicks, whistles, and determine where they are underwater using echolocation. These creatures have their own repertoire, or language, that is understood by every orca in their pod. They teach their young how to communicate, hunt, and play. In many pods, the young are taken care of by every member.
There are many things you can do to help orca whales:
Many orcas have been taken from the wild to live in captive seaquariums like SeaWorld where they are used in entertainment shows and kept in tanks that are too small for them get the movement they need. Others were born in captivity and have never experienced their ocean home. Stand up for orcas and don't buy a ticket.
Some wild populations of orcas are also at risk of disappearing forever. The Southern Resident killer whales are losing their main food source, Chinook salmon. You can help speak up for this population by contacting Governor Inslee of Washington State and asking him to breach the four lower Snake River dams so salmon will increase in numbers.
You can also share this information with your friends, family, and neighbors. By giving your voice, you are helping heal the ocean and protect orcas from extinction.