The killer whale is one of the most interesting and mysterious creatures living in the ocean. Their nickname “killer whale” refers to their reputation as dangerous predators, but in reality, it’s not quite that simple.
Orcas are the largest carnivorous dolphins. They eat just about anything they can find in the sea: fish, cephalopod mollusks, and marine mammals. When they have enough food, they coexist peacefully with other cetacean creatures. However, if orcas get hungry, they will attack any animal without a second thought, whether it be striped and baleen whales, other dolphins, pinnipeds, or even penguins. Their size doesn’t matter – if the prey is large, orcas act as a whole herd. They use a variety of hunting tactics, including wrenching their prey and biting chunks of meat off its body. They can also sink their teeth into the whale’s throat, tear out its tongue and shred its fins.
However, once a baby whale is attacked by an orca, it cannot be saved. Fast and agile, they swim at speeds of up to 55 km/h and simply cannot be caught by a mother trying to protect her baby.
Orcas also show amazing coordination and cold-bloodedness when hunting. They can overturn an ice floe to throw dormant seals into the water, or surround a herd of dolphins or walruses and destroy it piece by piece. They act coherently and methodically. When one orca can’t get a victim, others come to the rescue. Sometimes they even use the tactic of pushing the victim off one side of the ice floe so that it falls into the jaws of relatives on the other side. Orcas also raise their snouts out of the water to make sure the victim is not trying to escape and create large waves to wash it off the ice.
Orcas have a complex social organization. Females with cubs form families, and several families may join together in groupings called pods. Members of pods are very attached to each other, their relations are warm and friendly. Healthy individuals help sick or old brothers and sisters. Adults actively participate in the hunt, while females with cubs are on the sidelines, but still participate in the meal. If a member of the group is dissatisfied with something, he can express his indignation by slapping his fin on the surface of the water.
It is interesting to note that killer whales can be divided into two types: homebodies and transient killer whales. Homebodies feed mainly on fish and only sometimes hunt pinnipeds. They form groups of up to 15 individuals that walk in chains and search for swarms of fish. Orcas knock fish into a ball on the surface of the water, jam them with their tails and one by one dive into the center of the pack. These homebodies don’t live up to their nickname of “killer whale.” Their behavior and feeding habits are more reminiscent of humpback whales.
Orcas are amazing creatures that inspire wonder and admiration. Their abilities and social organization make them one of the most interesting inhabitants of the seas and oceans.