They are large like whales, have many similar features as a whale and they have whale in their given name. But in fact Killer whales or orcas are actually the largest members of the dolphin family. When you take a closer look they share many more features in appearance to their dolphin and porpoise counterparts than to their cousins who are more frequently referred to as whales. Many dolphins have heads that curve into a bulbous, beak-like shape, with bodies that are designed to make them more efficient and aerodynamic in their movements through the water. Disregarding their size, the orca’s physique looks much more like that of a dolphin than a whale.

There’s another difference between orcas and most other whales that you should know. While many baleen whales love to sing elaborate songs to communicate with one another, the ability to echolocate (using “biological sonar” to make their way in more difficult to navigate or murkier/darker waters) is specific to the dolphin family.  The Killer whales head contains fatty deposits, called “melons,” which are organs that emit sounds that then bounce off of objects in their surrounding environments. Hence, we have yet another way that killer whales are much more similar to their dolphin relatives.

Orcas are highly intelligent, highly adaptable and able to communicate and coordinate hunting tactics. They are extremely fast swimmers and have been recorded at speeds of up to 54kph! A wild orca pod can cover over 160 kilometers a day, foraging, and socializing.

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