Black and white illustration of an orca whale on a white background.
© Mary Austin
The Orca, known colloquially as the Killer Whale, is the largest member of the dolphin family. Orcas are considered to be one of the world’s most ferocious predators, subsisting on a diet of other marine mammals—seals, sea lions, and other species of whales—as well as fish, squid, and sometimes sea birds. Orcas are easily recognizable due to their distinctive black and white coloring, and are highly intelligent and cunning. They travel in pods of up to 40, and use echolocation to communicate and strategize when hunting. Orca pods are led by a dominant female, and scientists believe that each pod develops its own unique way of communicating, similar to a dialect. Orcas have not been hunted extensively, however populations in North America, Iceland, and Japan have dwindled significantly due to live capture for placement in marine parks and aquariums.