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Killer Whale (Orcinus orca)

Killer whales have been observed in all oceans and seas of the world. Although reported from tropical and offshore waters, they occur at higher densities in colder and more productive waters, with the greatest densities found at high latitudes. Along the west coast of North America, killer whales occur along the entire Alaskan coast, in British Columbia and Washington inland waters, and along the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon, and California. Seasonal and year-round occurrence has been noted for killer whales throughout Alaska and in the intracoastal waterways of British Columbia and Washington State, where pods have been labeled as ‘resident,’ ‘transient,’ and ‘offshore’ based on aspects of morphology, ecology, genetics, acoustics and behavior. Through examination of photographs of individuals recognizable by differences in dorsal fin shape and saddle patch patterns, movements of whales between geographical areas have been documented. For example, Alaskan killer whales have been observed in British Columbia, Washington and California. When born, killer whales are 2.1 to 2.4 m long and weigh up to 180 kg; by the time they are adults, males are 9.5 m and weigh at least 8 tons, and females are 7 m long and weigh up to 4 tons.

MML Research Recent MML Killer Whale Publications
  • FOOTE, A. D., M. D. MARTIN, M. LOUIS, G. PACHECO, K. M. ROBERTSON, M. H. S. SINDING, A. R. AMARAL, R. W. BAIRD, C. S. BAKER, L. BALANCE, J. BARLOW, A. BROWNLOW, T. COLLINS, R. CONSTANTINE, W. DABIN, L. DALLA ROSA, N. J. DAVISON, J. W. DURBAN, R. ESTEBAN, S. H. FERGUSON, T. GERRODETTE, C. GUINET, M. B. HANSON, W. HOGGARD, C. J. D. MATTHEWS, F. I. P. SAMARRA, R. de STEPHANIS, S. B. TAVARES, P. TIXIER, J. A. TOTTERDELL, P. WADE, L. EXCOFFIER, M. T. P. GILBERT, J. B. W. WOLF, and P. A. MORIN. 2019. Killer whale genomes reveal a complex history of recurrent admixture and vicariance. Mol. Ecol. 28(14):3427-3444.  Online.
  • EMMONS, C. K., J. J. HARD, M. E. DAHLHEIM, and J. M. WAITE. 2019. Quantifying variation in killer whale (Orcinus orca) morphology using elliptical Fourier analysis. Mar. Mammal Sci. 35:5-21.   Online.
  • HOOPER, R., J. C. BREALEY, T. van der VALK, A. ALBERDI, J. W. DURBAN, H. FEARNBACH, K. M. ROBERTSON, R. W. BAIRD, M. BRADLEY HANSON, P. WADE, M. T. P. GILBERT, P. A. MORIN, J. B. W. WOLF, A. D. FOOTE, and K. GUSCHANSKI. 2019. Host-derived population genomics data provides insights into bacterial and diatom composition of the killer whale skin. Molec. Ecol. 28:484-502.  Online.
  • FORD, M. J., K. M. PARSONS, E. J. WARD, J. A. HEMPELMANN, C. K. EMMONS, M. BRADLEY HANSON, K. C. BALCOMB, and L. K. PARK. 2018. Inbreeding in an endangered killer whale population. Anim. Conserv. 21:423-432.   Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Killer Whale publications
Recent MML Killer Whale Posters
  • Steak for Breakfast and Calamari for Dinner – Does 'Surf & Turf' for Killer Whales Mean a Predator Pit for Steller Sea Lions?
    1.31 MB  Online.
  • Foraging and Prey Differences Between Populations of Bigg’s Killer Whales (Mammal-eating “Transients”) in the Western and Eastern Aleutian Islands
    4.06 MB  Online.
  • Killer whale (Orcinus orca) Depredation on the Greenland Halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) Longline Fishery in the Sea of Okhotsk
    3.22 MB  Online.
  • Search the AFSC database for additional Killer Whale posters
Killer Whale Stock Assessment Reports
MML Education Web (these pages are targeted toward students!) Management Killer Whale Images Other links

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