Killer whales (also known as Orcas), despite their name, belong to the dolphin family. In fact, they are the world’s largest dolphins. Because of their power and ferocity eighteenth century sailors nicknamed orcas “whale killers.” Overtime that name got reversed to “killer whale,” which caught on to become the animals accepted name.
A male killer whale, called a bull, can be 19-22 feet long and weigh between 8,000 – 12,000 pounds. You can easily spot an adult male by its dorsal fin, which can be 6 feet tall (a female’s is much smaller). Killer whales are mammals, and like all mammals they need air to breathe. They use their blow hole to breathe, and when underwater a strong flap closes the blow hole tightly.
Most female killer whales, called a cow, live to be about fifty years old. A female killer whale will have a baby, called a calf, once every three to five years. When a calf is born it can be up to eight and a half feet long and can weigh as much as 400 pounds. After one year the calf will have more than doubled in size and will be ready to hunt.
The killer whale is the oceans’ top predator. They eat several hundred different types of animals, and as much as 400 pounds of food a day. They are so big and powerful that no other ocean creature dares to attack it. Humans are the only creatures on earth that pose a threat to killer whales; however, most killer whales live their whole lives without being bothered by humans.
If you want to learn more about killer whales you can visit the juvenile non-fiction section at the Auburn Hills Public Library. Here are some books that you can check out on the topic.