How long do they live? 90 to 100 years old [1, 2] although future studies may conclude that these are low estimations. I realize that this species is commonly known as the Killer whale, but I prefer Orca. So, that’s what I will use for the remainder of this post.

Where are they found? Orcas hang out in all of the major oceans of the world.

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Figure 1. Distribution of the Orca whale.

What do they eat? Orca whales are carnivorous and feed on many animals including sea lions, smaller whales, and seals [1].

What do they look like? Male Orcas can weigh up to 11 tons and reach 32 feet in length and females are only slightly smaller at about 8 tons and 28 feet [1]. They are white and black and generally love to party. By party I mean that they enjoy jumping and playing as much as anyone. They enjoy being in the wild and although debates are endless on the internet, a giant tank is not healthy for such an intelligent and fun loving species. See figures 2, 3, and 4.

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Figure 2. Orcas enjoying the ocean.
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Figure 3. Believe it or not, animals don’t really enjoy doing this humiliating stuff for you or your children. Like it or not, the animals of this world are not here for your entertainment. If you enjoy these kinds of shows, bear in mind that this intelligent creature cares about your smiles about as much as you care about its freedom.
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Figure 4. Stunning.

How do they reproduce? Females and male Orcas reach sexual maturity around 10 to 15 years old [3]. Females give birth to live young and wean the young between 1 to 2 years of age. This species does seem to go through reproductive senescence, although age of menopause varies from paper to paper [4].

How do scientists know how old they are? Life history parameters such as observations of individual whales, survival estimates based on calf birth and adult size and a whole lot of math [2]. Older estimates were based on teeth structures, but that was found to be an unreliable method.

So what are we lacking? It’s a bullet point kind of day:

  • Age verification techniques and data.
  • Reproductive senescence verification.
  • I’d be curious to know more about the immune system of this species.
  • Conservation status and population estimates would be great.

What do we have?

  • The nuclear genome of  Orcinus orca is uploaded to the NCBI web portal.
  • Conservation status: The Orca whale is listed as “Data Deficient” on the IUCN Red List page, which is just bizarre. I realize these are highly intelligent creatures, but do they also have invisibility cloaks?

Please contact me if you’d like to contribute to any of the information on this website.

 

  1. NOAA Fisheries. Killer Whale.  http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/species/mammals/whales/killer-whale.html Accessed 10/12/2016
  2. Olesiuk, Peter F., Graeme M. Ellis, and John KB Ford. Life history and population dynamics of northern resident killer whales (Orcinus orca) in British Columbia. Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, 2005.
  3. Ward, Eric; Holmes, Elizabeth; Balcomb, Ken (2009).“Quantifying the effects of prey abundance on killer whale reproduction” (PDF). Journal of Applied Ecology.46 (3): 632–640.
  4. Brault, Solange, and Hal Caswell. “Pod‐specific demography of killer whales (Orcinus orca).” Ecology 74.5 (1993): 1444-1454.