"Killer Whale Facts - A huge predator but usually safe for humans!"
Killer Whales are beautiful creatures and so its no wonder that most want to know more about these amazing aquatic mammals. We've probably all visited a sea world centre and watched a killer whale perform tricks. They are brilliant at it. But where can you find them in the wild and what else do we know about them?
Firstly before we go on....They are perhaps misunderstood given their name - "Killer Whale" Due to their size, they are at the top of the food chain in the ocean, meaning they survive by eating dolphins, seals and even large whales. They do not generally eat humans, which their title perhaps suggests.
Here are some fast killer whale facts:
In the Wild they live to be about 50 years old but can live up to the age of 80 or even 90
Some species of Killer Whales are becoming extinct and are now an endangered species. All our classed as Endangered off the waters of Australia
It is estimated that there are approx 50,000 killer whales left in the world
It is hard to tell the difference between a male and female killer whale. But there is a slight difference in the black and white pattern on their back. Also the Male has a straighter and bigger dorsal fin.
They like to eat sea lions and even whales
They travel in pods - and there can be as many as 40 at a time over 4 generations.
They are good swimmers, averaging 35m per hour but this can increase up to 50m per hour
What is a Killer Whale?
Killer Whales are part of the dolphin family and are not actually a whale despite their name. They are in fact the largest species of the dolphin family
They are also known as "Orca" and sometimes "Black Fish"
It has a reputation as being a fearsome creature and amongst indigenous people, the killer whale features heavily in their beliefs and mythological stories
How Big Are Killer Whales?
Here's an interesting killer whale fact:
Generally they are the same size as a bus!!
Their size depends on whether the whale is male or female. It can also depend on where geographically they live.
The male can actually be anywhere between 20 and 25 feet (6 to 8 metres) long and can weigh more than 6 tonnes!
Females tend to weigh less at about 4 or 5 tonnes and grow to be 15 to 22 feet (5 to 7 metres) long.
The largest killer whale ever recorded was seen off the coast of Japan. It was a male measuring 32 feet (9.8 metres) long and was estimated to weigh over 8 tonnes (17,636 pounds).
Where do Killer Whales Live?
Killer Whales are found in all oceans across the world. In fact they are nearly as widely distributed as humans.
They seem to prefer colder waters, so they are more abundant in the antarctic and arctic.
They are however found in more tropical waters too including areas off the coast of Hawaii, Australia, The Bahamas and Gulf of Mexico.
How do They Reproduce?
Killer Whales are Mammals which mean they carry their young inside their bodies and nurture them with milk for at least 12 months after birth.
The gestation period (time until the baby is born) is between 15 and 18 months
The calves stay with the pod for their entire lives - there is no other mammal that actually does this.
Females are likely to have 5 calves over the life time.
Males become sexually active by the age of 21.
Are Killer Whales Intelligent?
Another interesting killer whale fact...Did you know that they have the second largest brain of all mammals?
Anyone who has spent time with these wonderful creatures often talks of their playfulness, curiosity and ability to problem solve. Whilst its hard to pin point intelligence, most scientists believe that these characteristics all point to signs of intelligence.
How Do They Communicate?
Here's another interesting killer whale fact:
Killer whales communicate similarly to dolphins - They make special noises that sound a bit like a high pitched "squeak" "whistle" or "clicking" noise. Many scientists believe that they can actually communicate to each other by making these noises.
Each pod also has its own "Dialect" separating themselves from other pods' "voices."
Video of Killer Whales
This video is only short but demonstrates their size and how they might go about attacking a sea lion on a beach!
Where Can I see Killer Whales In Australia?
Killer Whales in Australia are not as common as whales or dolphins so you will have to be lucky to see one - but it is certainly not impossible:
Sitings have mainly focused around the South Australia Coastline but there have been sitings off the East Coast between Sydney and Melbourne.
Eden, a coastal town between Sydney and Melbourne has a fantastic Killer Whale Museum where you can find out more about these creatures and some of the sitings in the area.
Areas off the coast of Western Australia or Tasmania have also known sitings too.