The killer whale is an apex predator and one of the world’s most effective hunters. They are found in all of the world’s oceans and most of its seas, possibly making them the most widely distributed mammals after human beings. Surprisingly, killer whales, also known as orcas, are members of the dolphin family.
Killer whales have a varied diet, with individual populations often specializing in a particular type of prey. Some prefer to hunt fish, prowling the oceans in packs and hunting like wolves. Others are adept at hunting marine mammals such as seals and other species of dolphin, and have even been known to attack other adult whales of different species. Hunting techniques include beaching, in which a killer whale will temporarily hurl itself onto a beach to catch prey such as sea lions. Another impressive technique, and a sign of the species’ intelligence, is wave-hunting. The whales form a group and swim toward ice floes, upon which sit prey such as seals or penguins. The group then forces a wave to rush over the flow, knocking the prey into the water where other killer whales lie in wait.
Despite their fearsome reputation, killer whales are highly sociable animals. The social level within killer whale pods matches, and perhaps surpasses, that seen in other social animals such as primates and elephants. Strong social bonds within pods allow for what is termed “animal culture,” which includes the ability to pass along hunting techniques and vocalizations from one generation to the next. Killer whales have also been seen “making friends” with seals—they won’t attack particular individuals, despite attacking other seals in their hunting grounds. As for their interactions with humans, wild killer whales have never fatally attacked any humans—the only human fatalities were caused by killer whales in captivity.
Other Antarctica Wildlife
Adélie Penguin / Chinstrap Penguin / Emperor Penguin / Gentoo Penguin / Macaroni Penguin / Crabeater Seal / Elephant Seal / Fur Seal / Leopard Seal / Ross Seal / Weddell Seal / Blue Whale / Fin Whale / Humpback Whale / Minke Whale / Right Whale / Sei Whale / Sperm Whale