Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
What Are Killer Whales?
You are about to be introduced to the world's biggest family! Killer whales, which are also called orcas, are social whales that live in groups called pods. A pod can include 40 whales, with each member capable of growing to the size of a school bus. Imagine going out for a swim and seeing 40 buses swimming toward you; that's what it would be like to encounter a pod of killer whales!
What Do They Look Like?
Killer whales can grow to 23 to 32 feet in length and a weight of up to 6 tons. They are easy to identify thanks to their black and white markings and the large dorsal fin on their back; the word dorsal means back. Right behind the dorsal fin is a gray patch that's called the saddle because it's shaped like a saddle. Riding a killer whale would be quite a ride because they can swim up to 34 miles per hour.
Killer whales must have killer smiles because their teeth can grow to four inches in length.
What Do They Eat?
Killer whales use their big teeth to help them capture prey, but don't worry! Even though they're called killer whales, people are not typically attacked by these whales. Other animals, however, are fair game. Killer whales eat squid, octopus, sharks, and all types of fish. They can even grab dinner off of the shore if a seal or bird gets too close to the water's edge.
Killer whales use echolocation to locate their prey. Echolocation is a big word, but it's easy to understand if you break down the word. The whales make sounds that bounce off of prey, like an echo. The whale can tell where the echo comes from, so echolocation is using an echo to locate an object.
Where Do They Live?
Killer whales also use echolocation to communicate with other whales in their pod. Mothers often get help caring for their young from young female pod members. You might want to think of it as a nursery school with very big babies. A baby killer whale, called a calf, comes out of its mother weighing as much as 300 pounds and measuring about 8 feet long!
Killer whales adapt easily to water temperatures, so they can be found in warm waters near the equator as well as cold waters near the North and the South Pole. They are not afraid to come near the shore, which makes killer whales fun to photograph.
How Long Do They Live?
Killer whales are top predators, which means they are the hunters, not the prey. The main threat to killer whales is man. Some people might kill them for food, and fishermen might not want them around because they eat the fish the fisherman is trying to catch. In the wild, killer whales can live to be 50 to 80 years old.
Killer whales or orcas live in groups called pods and can grow to about the size of a school bus. They have black and white markings and a large dorsal fin, and they eat squid, octopus, sharks, fish, seals and seabirds. They use echolocation to locate their prey and communicate with other whales, and can live to be 50 to 80 years old.
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