Cabrillo Marine Aquarium

Killer Whale

Orcinus orca


Fun Facts

    The killer whale, as known as the orca, is the largest dolphin.

    The orca is the ocean's top predator.




The killer whale is a type of marine mammal that is found both offshore and in coastal waters.  Killer whales are the most cosmopolitan of all whales as they occur in all the worlds' oceans. The body is stout but streamlined with a striking black and white color pattern.

Some killer whales feed exclusively on fish, while others feed on marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, walruses and even large whales. There are many different types of killer whales, defined as "ecotypes", each with its own natural history. In the North Pacific, three ecotypes occur: Residents, Transients and Offshores. The Residents are primarily found in the Pacific Northwest and feed on salmon. The Transients prey on marine mammals such as sea lions and whales. The Offshores are the least known, but appear to prefer fishes and sharks.

Female killer whales live about 50 years, with a maximum of 8090 years. Males live around 29 years, with a maximum of 5060 years. Female killer whales mature at around age 15 and males mature at the age of 15 but do not typically reproduce until age 21.  Gestation is from 15 to 18 months and mothers calve, with a single offspring, about once every 5 years.

More information on killer whales can be found at the Aquarium in the Whales & Dolphins Room and in the courtyard.