The oldest known killer whale has died, aged over 100. She was the subject of a recent study which looked at the menopause in killer whales, or orcas (along with us humans, killer whales and pilot whales are the only species to go through the menopause). The biologists who studied her gave her the affectionate nickname ‘Granny’ as she was the matriarch of an orca family. So, in honour of Granny, today’s article is full of fascinating facts about killer whales.
- Killer whales are in fact a species of dolphin
- They are the largest predators on the planet and can reach a length of 8 metres
- Orcas feed primarily on seals but have also been known to eat other species of whales and even great white sharks!
- Killer whales’ teeth are 10cm long, and they have 60 of them
- They sometimes venture out of the water, grabbing their prey from rocks or beaches
- Like wolves or lions, orcas hunt in packs
- They live in family groups called ‘pods’ which can have as many as 60 members
- Killer whales communicate with one another by the sounds they make. Each pod has its own distinctive ‘accent’
- As well as for communication, orcas also use sound to ‘see’, via echo location
- A killer whale pregnancy lasts for 17 months
- Young females will take turns to care for baby killer whales
- Killer whales are not (yet) endangered. They are one of the few whale species never to have been hunted by men. They are susceptible to pollution though, so their future may not be so kind
Killer whales are not fish – they are in fact mammals. If you’d like to know more about some mammal species then why not look at the mammal section of our site? And if you are interested in orcas then take a look at this page on the WWF website – it’s a mine of information.