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Killer Whale Facts: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Killer whales are big whales that like to live together in groups called pods. In this lesson, you'll understand how to identify a killer whale and learn what they eat and how they live.

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!

Killer whales jumping out of the water
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.

The gray mark on the back of a killer whale looks like a saddle
killer whale

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!

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