All About Killer Whales

Killer Whales have become extremely popular in the media lately due to the very public argument about whether or not they should be kept in captivity or not. This all started when the largest killer whale in captivity, Tilikum, killed a senior trainer at SeaWorld Orlando. Dawn Brancheau’s death started the argument leading to the film Blackfish and several high profile books about killer whales in captivity.

Killer whales (Orcninus orca) are the most widely distributed of all whales and dolphins as they are found in every ocean on the planet. This post is going to explore the lesser known things about the killer whale. For example, many people do not know that there is not just one type of killer whale. There are in fact 10 different ecotypes. These ecotypes have many different characteristics and are all genetically distinct from each other. Many scientists believe that the different ecotypes should actually be classed a subspecies, but this argument is still ongoing.

As I have mentioned the different ecotypes, I’m going to take this opportunity to write about the different ecotypes and what makes them different from each other. In the Northern Hemisphere there are 5 ecotypes. The first three of these can be found in the North Pacific.

Southern Resident Killer Whales
The Resident Orca is a fish specialist which gets its name from its small home range. Residents live in the largest numbers within their pods and within the Residents there are two different communities; the Northern Residents and the Southern Residents. Both of these communities are genetically and acoustically distinct from each other. Because the Residents are fish specialists they are very vocal when hunting. images.jpegFamous Resident: Lolita is the oldest captive killer whale who currently resides at Miami Seaquarium.


The next ecotype in the North Pacific are called Transient Orcas. Transients are mammal eating orcas and travel in much smaller groups than the Residents. Transients are named due to their large home ranges. Due to their diet of mammals Transients are much less vocal when hunting as mammals can also hear sounds on the same wavelength as the killer whales. Again Transient whales are genetically and acoustically distinct from the Residents. tilikum-030816Famous Transient: Tilikum, the largest killer whale that ever lived in captivity, also the whale that killed trainer Dawn Brancheau.

980xThe third ecotype in the North Pacific are the Offshore Orcas. Little is known about the Offshore orcas as they are far from sure and not often seen. However, when they are seen they are usually in large groups with more than 50 individuals. The teeth of Offshore orcas are worn down which suggest that they eat things with rough skin such as sharks. These mysterious orcas are the smallest of the three North Pacific ecotypes.fincomparisonscaled.jpg

tysfjord_2007_84_0Moving onto the North Atlantic ecotypes of which there are two. The first of which is called the North Atlantic Type 1 orca. These small orcas live in closely related pods and eat both fish and mammals. These particular orcas are famous for their tail-slapping method of hunting where they herd fish into a tight ball and then slap the fish with their tails to stun them.

_47034904_eyepatchshotofwestcoasties.jpgThe second ecotype in the North Atlantic is the North Atlantic Type 2 orcas. These orcas prey primarily on whales and dolphins and they are a large orca with back-sloping eye patches.



antarctic_type_a.jpgThe Southern Hemisphere also has 5 different ecotypes. The first of which is the Type A orcas. These are extremely large orcas thats can reach up to 31 feet long and hunt primarily Minke whales.



The Type B killer whales are split into two other ecotypes. There are Type B small orcas and Type B large orcas. The Type B large orcas are also known as Pack Ice orcas. These orcas forage for seals in the loose pack ice and are particularly famous for their co-operative wave washing hunting technique. The Type B small orcas are also known as Gerlache orcas. They are smaller than both the Pack Ice and Type A orcas and are thought to feed on penguins as they are most commonly found around penguin colonies. Both of the Type B orcas appear to have a brown or yellowish hue with a cape of paler colouring.

whales_typecThe fourth ecotype in the Southern Hemisphere is the Type C orca also known as the Ross Sea orca. These are the smallest ecotype of orca reaching a total length of 20 feet. These orcas normally appear grey and white as opposed to black and white and they sometimes have a yellowish hue. The cape of the Ross Sea orca tends to be darker than the rest of the body and they have a dramatically slanted eye patch. Little is known about the diet of the Ross Sea orcas, although it is believed that they eat Antarctic toothfish.

image_1172_1-killer-whale-type-dThe final ecotype of killer whale is called the Type D orca. These are the subantarctic orcas and look dramatically different from the other ecotypes. These orcas are black and white in colouring and they have shorter dorsal fins, rounder heads and the smallest eye patches. Very little is known about these orcas as there have been very few sightings. It is believed that they feed on the Patagonian toothfish.Killer Whale Poster - final.jpg

If you want to know more about killer whales there are plenty of websites online, and if you are interested in captive killer whales I suggest watching the film Blackfish and reading books such as Death at SeaWorld by David Kirkby and Beneath the Surface by John Hargrove.

I hope this post has informed you more about killer whales, if you’d like more information please leave me a comment, and I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge.


Animal Travels: Canada

For this weeks Animal Travels, I’m going to explore the wildlife of Canada. Now Canada is a huge country and so getting every single species will be a next to impossible job so I’m going to pick some top Canada species and discuss where you can find them.

First up has got to be the Moose, Canada’s most famous animal. Unknown.jpegThe moose is an extremely large animal, and is definitely not to be tangled with. Moose can be found pretty much all over Canada but at Jasper National Park in Alberta is one of the best viewing locations for moose in the wild.

Next on the wildlife of Canada list is the Mountain Lion or Cougar.mountain-lion-on-snowy-rock Mountain Lions are best viewed on Vancouver Island and probably safest from a distance because even though they may look cute and cuddly they are carnivores.

In Churchill, Manitoba there is a viewing opportunity for two different popular species, but I’d wrap up warm as Churchill is definitely part of the Arctic. Up in Churchill you can see the canaries of the sea, Beluga whales, known as canaries due to their high pitched communication. Unknown-1.jpegAnother animal that you can see plenty of in Churchill are Polar Bears, which are significantly more dangerous than Churchill’s other famous residents. Unknown-2.jpegPolar Bears are in desperate need of conservation help in order to save them from extinction so please if you do want to go and see Polar Bears in the wild, go to a reputable tour company who will be donating some of their proceeds to the protection of the polar bears in the wild.

If bears are your thing you can also head to Gribbell Island and look for Spirit Bears. spirit-bear-on-rock2-1Spirit Bears are actually Kermode Bears which are a rare subspecies of the American Black Bear, and are particularly prominent in the folk stories and legends of Canada.

And to round of the Animal Travels: Canada post, its time to talk about the marine life of Canada. Canada is famous for its harp seals and also the Killer Whales that inhabit its waters. Unknown-3.jpegKiller Whales are best viewed around Vancouver and British Columbia, but perhaps the best viewing you will ever have is at the Gwaii Haanas Marine Conservation Area Reserve.

Harp seals however, are best viewed in Quebec specifically at Iles-de-la-Madeleine. North-Harp-Seal-Watch-1-ice-seal

If anyone is heading to Canada send me a message at or leave me a comment below and I can help provide you will tips or we can just gush over the cuteness of animals together.


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