Updated: Apr 1
The killer whale Orcinus orca, also known as orca, have the widest distribution of all marine mammals. They’re found in every ocean in the world. They are the largest member of the Delphinidae family, or oceanic dolphins. They are most common in waters of high productivity, in coastal areas or over continental shelves.
Looking at all populations, orcas are generalist eaters, consuming fish, seals and sea lions, dolphins and porpoises, sharks and rays, large whales, cephalopods (octopods and squids), seabirds and more. However, some orcas specialise on specific prey, and it turns out orcas are picky eaters! Once they’ve learned what their family eats, they aren’t likely to switch diets.
Killer whales are mostly black on top with white undersides and white patches near the eyes. They also have a gray or white saddle patch behind the dorsal fin. These markings vary widely between individuals and populations. they may weight up to 11 tons and their life span is between 30 to 90 years.
Identification criteria | Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)
Killer whales are highly social, and most live in social groups called pods (groups of related individuals seen together more than half the time). Individual whales tend to stay in their original pods. Pods typically consist of a few to 20 or more animals, and larger groups sometimes form for temporary social interactions, mating, or seasonal concentrations of prey.
The killer whale Orcinus orca | Feeding behavior
Killer Whales in the Red Sea:
The killer whale has occasionally been recorded in the Red Sea. Local fishermen have seen killer whales, recognized from illustrations, on two occasions in the Farasan Marine Protected Area, Saudi Arabia: in 1992 off Sumair Island, in 1994 off the Abalat Islands.
A pod of six killer whales was seen and photographed on 6 May 2004 by the crew of the ‘Odyssey’, 10 km off the Eritrean coast. Two more sightings at the Farasan Islands; the first was made in February 2015 by two border guards, while on a regular mission about 5 km west of the Islands. They sighted and photographed a group of killer whales traveling at high speed, but details on group size and composition are unknown. The second sighting was made by fishermen on January 2017, off the island of Salubha of a group of 3-4 milling animals. Most recent reports were in January 2021 of the killer whale near Saudi Arabia including feeding behavior.
Given the fact that killer whales are one of the most recognizable marine mammals, with their distinctive black and white bodies. animals which are easily spotted, the apparent absence of the species from the northern Red Sea and its rarity in its southern reaches supports the view that it is a rare visitor from the Indian Ocean.
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Download your FREE copy in High-Resolution of "Dolphins and Whaled of the Red Sea" and more from our E-Library on the Red Sea Dolphins Project section.
- Cetaceans of the Red Sea - CMS Technical Series Publication No. 33
- Baldwin R (2003) Whales and dolphins of Arabia. Mazoon Printing Press LLC, Muttrah, Sultanate of Oman.