It's a Fact!

World OCEANS Day - June 8

  1. Next to humans, Orcas are the second most widespread mammal on the planet (includes all eco types of Orcas).

  2. Orcas have the second largest brain by mass, with a larger encephalization quotient than chimpanzees.

  3. Grandmothers are key to the survival of killer whale family groups.

  4. Orcas grow to 23 to 32 feet (7 to 9.7 meters). That is almost as long as a school bus.

  5. Neither sons nor daughters disperse from the family group in resident killer whales. This unusual family structure has only evolved in a small number of toothed whales. In all other animals one or both sex disperses.

  6. A baby orca is called a calf, and they are about 8.5 feet long and 265 to 353 lbs. at birth.

  7. Orcas can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes. However, they have many different dive patterns ranging from shallow dives of less than one minute to deeper dives of three to five minutes.

  8. Celebrate World OCEANS DAY!
    So, what can we do to help these ocean species to survive and thrive? We think it is best, to begin with educating yourself about the world’s oceans and its inhabitants. Just doing this will likely lead you to make day-to-day choices that will assist in improving the well-being of our oceans, making them healthier places to live.

  9. Orcas can only breathe voluntarily, which means they will drown if they fall completely asleep in the same way as people. Studies indicate that Orcas probably sleep by shutting down one half of their brain at a time, which allows them to maintain enough awareness to swim to the surface to breathe.

  10. Baby orcas are born black and peachy-orange color. Scientists believe this caused by a thinner blubber layer, and as a result, the blood vessels are nearer the surface of the skin, giving the calves this color. 

  11. An adult Southern Resident orca eats 385 lbs. of fish per day. Salmon abundance (specifically Chinook salmon) is the key to the survival of our Southern Resident killer whale (SRKW) population.

  12. Females orcas share all the fish they catch — an important reason for the Pods to stay together, to feed each other.

  13. The gestation period of an Orca is 15-18 months. The longest of any whale.

  14. Orcas are one of only 5 species of over 5000 mammals that go through menopause.

  15. An orca's dorsal fin is one of it's distinguishing feature (saddle patch and eye patch are also distinguishing features),  but it also helps regulate their body temperature.

  16. Orcas generally travel at around 3-4 mph, but if they have somewhere to be, they can go at about ten mph. The top speed is about 30 mph, but they can only sustain that pace for short intervals. 

  17. Orcas create sound by forcing air through the sinus passages in their head. Then it passes through the fatty tissue in the melon located on the whale's forehead.

  18. The name Orca is a derivative of their scientific name Orcinus orca. This name is more commonly used now.

  19. All Orcas are born with whiskers. The calves lose this facial hair soon after birth, but the hair follicles remain visible.

  20. Orcas use echolocation to hunt. They will make a sound that travels through the water until sound waves hit an object. Then, the sound wave will bounce back to the orca. 

  21. Orcas coloring helps conceal their outline in the water. This is beneficial while they are hunting food.

  22. Female orcas have a significantly longer lifespan than males. Females live for decades after they undergo menopause and can no long reproduce.

  23. Orcas do not have smelling organs or a lobe of the brain dedicated to smelling, so it is believed that they cannot smell. They have good senses of sight and hearing and can hear better than dogs and even bats.

  24. Orcas are able to control the flow of blood to their hearts and brains, which keeps them from suffering from a lack of oxygen when they are deep underwater.


World OCEANS DAY! June 8, 2019
Of late, many of us have been caught up in the struggles the Southern Resident orcas. So much so, that when good things happen in the Salish Sea, we forget to celebrate. The first example of this that springs to mind is the birth of two calves into the SRKW population in the past six months. Two reasons to pause our worries and to celebrate. Although our thoughts invariably shift to feelings of concern for these young whales; hoping they are doing well as of this writing.

June 1 marked the start of Orca Action Month in our part of the world. With this in mind, we added a new page on our website: Orca Facts. Things about orcas that even the “whaley” person may not know. Like Fact No. 1: Next to humans, orcas are the second most widespread mammal on the planet (includes all ecotypes of orcas).

Rereading the Orca Facts, and posting today’s fact, on World Ocean Day - the 8th day of Orca Action Month, got us thinking about the millions of other creatures around the globe that call oceans home. The biodiversity is astonishing, another cause for celebration.

But as we all know, many of the residents of many of these oceans are in similar precarious states as the Southern Residents: fighting their own battle of survival. Knowing that they are not alone in their struggles can’t bring any of these species comfort.

So, what can we do to help these ocean species to survive and thrive? We think it is best, to begin with educating yourself about the world’s oceans and its inhabitants. Just doing this will likely lead you to make day-to-day choices that will assist in improving the well-being of our oceans, making them healthier places to live.

We commend those of you who have taken personal measures to improve the quality of Southern Resident orcas’ habitat, as well as organizations like PCC Markets (Seattle) who chose to stop selling Pacific Northwest Chinook salmon in their stores. Other grocery retailers have made the same choice. The website links below will take you to numerous suggestions about how you can play a part in making the world’s oceans healthy again.

This World Oceans Day, we celebrate the additions to the Southern Resident orca family; as well as all of you who are making an effort every day in your own way to help make L124’s and J56’s new home and the world’s oceans better places to live.






© 2020 Center for Whale Research

The Center for Whale Research is a 501c3 nonprofit organization registered in Washington State.

All rights reserved. No part of the material found on this website may be reproduced or utilized in any form, or by any means, without the prior written consent of the Center for Whale Research.  All members of CWR are non-voting members. 

  • Facebook - White Circle
  • Twitter - White Circle
  • Instagram - White Circle