Widely known through movies and aquatic exhibits, the killer while is easily recognized by its distinctive black and white color pattern and size, males growing up to 30 feet and up to 12,000 pounds.
As the most widely geographically distributed cetacean, the killer whale's range is not limited by water temperature or depth. The densest populations occur at high latitudes.
World populations appear to be specialized to local resources, with prey ranging from small school fish to large mammals like baleen and sperm whales. Even deer and moose may be taken while swimming across channels.
Despite its fierce reputation, the killer whale is highly playful, often breaching and slapping the water. It is also a social creature, usually staying in pods for life, which averages 29 years for males and 50 for females.
Although not classified as separate subspecies, there appear to be two distinct subgroups of orcas: resident and transient. Residents tend to form larger pods of 5-25, inhabit smaller home ranges, vocalize frequently, feed mostly on fish and rarely stay submerged for more than 4 minutes. Transients roam wider ranges in smaller pods of 1-7 individuals, feed mostly on mammals, vocalize less often and frequently remain underwater for 5-15 minutes. As relatively stable communities, pods evolve unique communicative and behavioral cultures.May 07, 2012