Orcinus Orca

Although called a whale, the killer whale actually belongs to the dolphin family of marine mammals. The killer whale, or orca, has achieved popularity through conservation efforts in the 1970s and through its common home in marine life parks.

Size: Killer whales are the largest member of the dolphin family. They can reach lengths of 25 to 30 feet and weigh up to 10 tons.

Distribution: Found in the polar regions closest to the equator, killer whales are highly adaptable to their environment. It is not unusual to find killer whales among ice flows, as well as in bays and estuaries.

Diet: Killer whales are known as the "wolves of the sea" for their fierce and cooperative hunting practices. Their varied prey includes seals, fish, turtles, squid, seabirds, and other whales and dolphins. Predators: Humans are the killer whale's main predator.

Gestation: By 10 years of age, both male and female killer whales have reached sexual maturity. After a gestation period of 17 months (the longest of all cetaceans), a calf is born. Twin births have been observed, but are rare. Calves are generally weaned from their mother's milk by age one. Unlike other dolphin species, both male and female killer whales will remain with their mother for the remainder of their lives. Within the pod, sub-pods may form when daughters have offspring of their own. These family units can range is size from 3 to 25 individuals.

Status: Healthy Populations

Fun Facts: Every pod of killer whales has its own unique dialect of sounds with which they use to communicate with one another.