If you have seen the movie Free Willy, you would be able to instantly recognise an Orca. Willy is an Orca or a killer whale.

Orcas (Orcinus orca) are mammals classified under the order Cetacea. Though they are called killer whales, they belong to the dolphin family. Like other whales and dolphins, they, too, come up to the surface to take in oxygen.

Orcas can be found in all the oceans of the world. Orcas are found in pods which is the collective term for these animals like ‘a gaggle” for geese or ‘school’ for fish. A pod may consist of two or three groups with each group consisting of 15 or 20 members.

Orca whale family
A mature male Orca whale swims with a baby whale.

The male Orca weighs up to eight tonnes and reaches a length of 23 feet. The female is however, small, weighing only four tonnes with a length of 18 feet. Female Orcas may give birth to one calf measuring seven feet.

Both male and female Orcas look similar. They have conical snouts, huge foreheads and even have similar colouring. Their top surface or dorsal is black, while the bottom surface or ventral is white. Orcas are also sometimes mistaken for the shark because of their characteristic six-foot tall dorsal fin.

Orcas have no enemies under the sea except man. They are very fearless and attack larger fish too. Orcas have a row of 50-60 teeth and eat whatever they find. Of course, it has to taste good to them as well.

This includes other smaller whales, penguins, fish, turtles, seals and even octopi. Because of the characteristic dorsal fin and their reputation for fearlessness they are sometimes referred to as the killer whales.

A single pod may contain both mature adults and teenage Orcas, but they do not travel together in the same group. These animals, like dolphins and whales communicate with each other by means of whistles.