Why are orcas called killer whales

why are orcas called killer whales
Killer whale name

The killer whale received the English name killer whale in the 18th century due to an incorrect translation of the Spanish name killer whale – asesina ballenas (“whale killer”).

Unfair name
Orca eats fish

Orcinus orca is an unfair and ill nickname – “killer whale.” It is true that the killer whale is an ocean cetacean predator that kills and eats prey. Just like a dolphin kills a fish to eat it, or a cat kills a bird before it eats it. However, we never heard anyone call a dolphin or a cat a killer.

Whaler Stories

Sailors of Spanish whaling ships of the 18th century have repeatedly watched killer whales hunt humpbacks, sperm whales and other whales. Killer whales used a kind of collective planned attack and drove the entire pack of whales who were chosen as the victim, preferably those with cubs.

The main task of one group of killer whales was to exhaust the female whale by chasing and crush the cubs with mass in order to drown and prevent them from breathing. Other killer whales at this time attacked the male whale to prevent him from protecting the cubs. Usually, the cub died as a result of drowning, in some cases the killer whales stopped chasing the female and feathered on the carcass of the cub, or, conversely, everything ended with the mother dying, bleeding.

Watching this cruel hunt, Spanish whalers nicknamed the ruthless killer whales “asesina ballenas,” which means “whale killer” or simply “killer.” The English definition was not applied literally, and instead the word order was changed to “killer whales” instead of “whale killer,” which would be the correct translation of the original definition of Spanish whalers.

Sailors of Spanish whaling ships of the 18th century watched killer whales hunt humpbacks, sperm whales and other whales
Sailors of Spanish whaling vessels of the 18th century
Killer whale morphology

Killer whale is the largest oceanic representative of the dolphin family. Males up to 9 m long and weighing up to 5.5 tons. Females are smaller, about 7.7 m, and weigh about 3.8 tons.

Despite their gigantic size, they have a hydrodynamic body shape, which allows you to swim at high speeds (40 km/h) during the pursuit of mining.

The huge dorsal fin and the characteristic combination of only two colors, black and white, do not allow confusing adult killer whales with any other marine animals.

Types of killer whales

There are three ecotypes of killer whales: “resident,” “transit” and “marine.”

  • Resident killer whales live in a certain area near the coast and their migration occurs over short distances. The dorsal fin is curved and has a rounded tip. They live in large groups (up to 60 individuals) and feed mainly on fish and squid.
  • Transit killer whales are migratory individuals moving long distances along the coast. Their flocks are small groups of less than 10 individuals. They feed mainly on marine mammals: seals, sea lions, etc. These killer whales are characterized by triangular and pointed dorsal fins.
  • Marine killer whales live about 20 km and further from the coast, forming large flocks of up to 75 individuals. Their main food is sharks, even a formidable white shark. Whales are also part of their diet. These killer whales are somewhat smaller than representatives of the other two groups. The dorsal fin also has a rounded tip. These killer whales migrate thousands of kilometers.

Killer whales live in all oceans, and it is interesting that each flock makes different sounds, as if communicating in different languages. Killer whales, despite belonging to the same species, do not often change the social group, these are animals that are especially attached to each other

Killer whale intelligence

Killer whales are considered one of the smartest marine mammals. They have a very large brain that they use productively.

They are able to enter the maze of complex fishing traps to catch tuna inside the trap, and then get out of the trap again. Dolphins (also very intelligent animals) are not capable of such a feat.

Living in large aquariums, killer whales easily learn the tricks that they are taught. However, it is life in captivity that contributes to the hostile and unfriendly behavior of killer whales.

Published by Eric


Leave a Reply