Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia
Also known as
Killer whale, Blackfish, Aarluk
Global: All latitudes in all oceans
Coastal to open ocean
Order Cetacea (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), Family Delphinidae (dolphins)
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Orcas are highly adaptable. They are found in every ocean in the world have and likely have the largest geographic distribution of any species, after humans. They are one of the ocean’s top predators. In fact, their nickname “killer whale” comes from their reputation of being ferocious predators, exhibiting dramatic behaviours when toying with their prey. Orcas and other dolphins are thought to be some of the smartest animals on the planet, challenging the great apes (chimpanzees and gorillas) for the top spot. They are also extremely curious, often approaching people to investigate.
Orcas are highly social and live in complex matriarchal groups called pods. Both female and male offspring remain with their mothers for their entire lives. Their pods are tightknit groups led by older females that provide decades of knowledge to support the pod.