What do orcas eat?
Orcas are marine mammals that belong to the cetacean group. Although they are commonly known as whales, they are included in the Delphinidae family, which also includes dolphins. Thus, orcas are not really whales, but rather large dolphins, although they are sometimes thought of as toothed whales.
These cetaceans have a terrible reputation, in fact, they are classified as murderers, but are they really? Do they kill for pleasure or just to feed? And what do they eat? Continue reading this AnimalWised article to find out what do orcas eat And if his fame is so true.
Orcas are the largest members of the dolphin family, being able to measure up to 10 meters in length and reach weights of about 7 tons. As is common in this type of mammal, they have a complex social structure made up of groups of up to 50 individuals, where there are both males and females of different ages. On the other hand, they also have a complex communication system, which they use quite efficiently to transmit different types of messages.
Orcas are excellent hunters, which they have a carnivorous diet, and are considered to be exceptionally successful predators. To feed, especially large marine animals, they hunt in groupsthey rely on their aerodynamic bodies to move at high speeds, and, in addition, they use their communication and force system.
When they capture prey smaller than themselves, they can swallow them whole, but when it comes to larger animals, they usually kill them first and then tear them into parts to eat them. an adult killer whale can eat about 45 kg of meat a dayalthough it is known that they even devour larger quantities.
What do baby orcas eat?
As we have mentioned, orcas are mammals, therefore, the young feed on their mother’s milk for the first year. During this time, in addition, the mother teaches them to hunt smaller prey, so that the diet alternates between breast milk and animals that they hunt.
From the yearthe killer whales begin their process of weaning, so they already stop consuming mother’s milk and join the herd during hunts to feed. Although orcas already become independent from their mothers, it is common for them to stay within their own pod as adults. However, males of reproductive age visit other groups to breed with females that do not belong to their family group.
What do adult orcas eat?
Orcas are carnivorous animals that have a very varied diet. Depending on the habitat where they are, they can take advantage of the presence of one or the other prey depending on their availability. Among the animals that orcas eat we find:
- sea lions
- smaller dolphins
- sea birds
- marine reptiles
Let’s remember that they are very voracious animals and excellent hunters that also attack in groups, so they are infallible and can kill entire families.
Do orcas eat sharks?
killer whales yes they eat sharks, since they practically do not discard any marine animal. In this way, their various characteristics allow them to hunt and consume from small sharks to large sharks. Depending on the size of these cartilaginous fish, a single killer whale can kill it or several of the herd organize and hunt it in groups. Generally, they try to bring the shark to the surface as they beat him until he loses his life.
Among the types of sharks that orcas eat we can mention:
Certain species of sharks, such as the white shark, are apex predators in the habitats where they develop, that is, they have no natural predators. However, this changes in the presence of orcas, which compete very successfully even with the fearsome white shark, which they not only feed on, but also manage to displace.
Do orcas eat humans?
killer whales they do not chase humans to eat them, since we are not really a prey like others that do feed on. However, in recent years, certain non-fatal attacks have been reported by these cetaceans on boats where there are obviously people, and others where people have found themselves on ice sheets. Until now, it is estimated that these incidents occur because orcas confuse people with possible prey or because of simple games they play, since we remember that it is a species with social behavior.
However, in certain parts of the world, fatal attacks on humans have occurred, but all have been with orcas in captivity who end up lashing out at the caregivers. These cases are totally understandable because no animal that is in captivity and subjected to a life of training that is not natural can be calm, on the contrary, it lives in permanent stress, which undoubtedly influences its behavior, which can end up being aggressive.
In this sense, at ExpertAnimal we suggest not going to shows where animals such as orcas are presented, since they must inhabit the oceans and only be in temporary captivity for fully justified reasons such as caring for the animal’s health.
If, after discovering what orcas eat, you wonder if they kill for pleasure, in this other article we will explain whether orcas are murderers or not.
If you want to read more articles similar to What do orcas eat?we recommend that you enter our section on balanced diets.
- Burnett, E. (2009). orcinus orca. Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Orcinus_orca/
- ITIS. (2022). cetacea. Available at: https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=180403#null
- Reeves, R.; Pitman, R.L.; Ford, JKB (2017). orcinus orca. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T15421A50368125.en
- Visser, IN; Bergham, Jo; VanMeurs, R.; Fertl, D. (2000). Killer Whale (Orcinus orca) Predation on a Shortfin Mako Shark (Isurus oxyrinchus) in New Zealand Waters. Aquatic Mammals. 26(3):229–231. Available at: https://aquaticmammalsjournal.org/share/AquaticMammalsIssueArchives/2000/AquaticMammals_26-03/26-03_Berghan.pdf
- Engelbrecht, TM; Kock, AA; O’Riain, M.J. (2019). Running scared: when predators become prey. Ecosphere. 10(1). Available at: 10.1002/ecs2.2531