Are Killer Whales Dolphins or Whales?

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Yes, a killer whale or orca is a dolphin. It belongs to the family Delphinidae or oceanic dolphins. It is the largest living member of this family. Like other dolphins, killer whales are smart and social, and live in groups known as pods. To communicate, they make a large variety of distinctive sounds. The group members can recognize these sounds even at a large distance.

Like other dolphin species, killer whales also use echolocation to communicate and hunt. They make special noises that travel within the water and then bounce back to them after hitting objects. It reveals the size and location of the group.

Killer whales are dolphins not whales.
Killer whales are dolphins not whales.

Killer whales got the name “killer whales” because they are efficient predators. When ancient sailors observed a group of killer whales preying on large species of whales, they called them ‘asesina ballenas’, which means “whale killers”. The term then eventually turned to ‘killer whale’.

Also Read: How many Killer Whales are left in the World?

Are Orcas Whales or Dolphins?

Orcas, also known as killer whales, are actually the largest species of dolphin. They have a distinctive black and white coloring and can be found in all oceans around the world. Orcas are highly intelligent animals that live in complex social groups with strong family bonds. They feed on fish, squid, seals and other marine mammals such as dolphins or even large whales if they get the opportunity to do so.

They are also highly social. They live and hunt in groups known as pods. Large whales of their size are solitary and not social.
They are also highly social. They live and hunt in groups known as pods. Large whales of their size are solitary and not social.

Why Are Killer Whales Dolphins?

Killer whales are dolphins because they have all the physical, physiological, and behavioral characteristics of dolphins. Like other dolphins:

  • They have streamlined bodies, rounded heads, beaks, and teeth.
  • They have melon; a fatty deposit in the forehead that gives a dome-like appearance to their heads, and an organ that aids in echolocation
  • They have a single blowhole like dolphins (whales have two blowholes).
  • They use echolocation for communication and hunting.
  • They are also highly social. They live and hunt in groups known as pods. Large whales of their size are solitary and not social.

Because of all these characteristics, the rules of taxonomy classify them as dolphins rather than whales.

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Also Read: Why are Orcas Important to the Ecosystem?

However, despite its bigger size, the killer whale is still a dolphin according to the rules of taxonomy.
However, despite its bigger size, the killer whale is still a dolphin according to the rules of taxonomy.

Why Are Killer Whales Not Dolphins?

Killer whales are dolphins not whales. Killer whales have a body size from 23 to 32 feet, which makes them distinct from other dolphins. Nowadays, when a dolphin attains a body size of more than 30 feet, some people call it a whale. However, despite its bigger size, the killer whale is still a dolphin according to the rules of taxonomy.

Killer whales have a much larger body size of 23 to 32 feet and weigh up to 6 tons. While other dolphins have an average body size of 6.5 to 13 feet and weigh 100 to 200 kg.
Killer whales have a much larger body size of 23 to 32 feet and weigh up to 6 tons. While other dolphins have an average body size of 6.5 to 13 feet and weigh 100 to 200 kg.

What Is The Difference Between Killer Whales And Dolphin?

The major differences between killer whales and other dolphins are:

  • Dolphins have gray and smooth bodies, and long beaked mouths. While killer whales have black and white body color, and a large dorsal fin.
  • Killer whales have a much larger body size of 23 to 32 feet and weigh up to 6 tons. While other dolphins have an average body size of 6.5 to 13 feet and weigh 100 to 200 kg.
  • Killer whales feed on fish and large aquatic mammals like seals, dolphins, and even whales. Dolphins eat schools of fish and other small aquatic animals.
Research shows that the pods of killer whales develop special hunting strategies which they pass through multiple generations
Research shows that the pods of killer whales develop special hunting strategies which they pass through multiple generations

Which Is Smarter, Killer Whales Or Dolphins?

Killer whales are extremely intelligent and social animals and are considered smarter than other dolphins. They have a highly developed structure of the brain with the highest Gyrencephalic Index (GI) (anatomical findings of the brain) of all the animals.

Killer whales are observed to imitate others and teach skills to their offspring. They are highly social and their matrilineal family groups, known as pods, are considered the most stable of any other animal species. Research shows that the pods of killer whales develop special hunting strategies which they pass through multiple generations. That is why killer whales are considered smarter than other dolphins.

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