How big is an Orca (Killer Whale) – Size Chart, Appearance & More

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Killer Whale Size Chart

1.Antarctic Killer Whale9.5 m or 31 ft
2.Pack Ice Killer Whale9.2 m or 30 ft
3.Gerlache Killer Whale6.9 m or 22.6 ft
4.Ross Sea Killer Whale6 m or 20 ft
5.Subantarctic Killer Whale9 m or 29.5 ft
6.Resident Killer Whale7.2 m or 23 ft
7.Bigg’s Killer Whale8 m or 26 ft
8.Offshore Killer Whale6.7 m or 22 ft
9.Smaller Eastern North Atlantic Killer Whale6.5 m or 21.3 ft
10.Large Eastern North Atlantic Killer Whale8.5 m or 27.8 ft

How big is a full-grown killer whale?

A full-grown killer whale can be anywhere between 7 to 9.5 m or 23 to 32 ft in length.

A full-grown adult male can have a weight of about 3,620 to 5,440 kg. On the other hand, a full grown adult female can have a weight of about 1,500 to 2,700 kg.

It is to be noted that the adult male killer whales are larger than their female ones of the same type with all of the including body features such as pectoral flippers, dorsal fins, tail flukes, and girth.

Though called Killer Whale, Orcas are not true whales. In fact, they are the largest species of dolphins on planet earth.

An adult Killer Whale is so powerful and big that if all of the members of the group (pod) come together and cooperate than they all can generate large oceanic waves that can wash seals from ice floes.

And such water waves look like tsunamis (giant waves) in the middle of the ocean.

How small is the smallest killer whale?

You will find people saying that there ain’t any smallest killer whale species, and so they do consider the baby killer whales as the only small ones amongst the adult killer whales. That’s not correct!

In fact, there’s a killer whale species called the Pygmy Killer Whale which is a poorly known and rarely seen oceanic dolphin species that are included in the same classification as that of the other huge killer whales under Family Delphinidae of the Animal Kingdom.

The Pygmy killer whale is the smallest species of Killer Whale with an adult maximum body length of 8.5 feet or 2.6 m.

And, on average, Pygmy Killer whale’s newborns are nearly 2.6 feet (0.8 m) long, while adults are 6.5 feet (2 m) long. These small dolphins can weigh up to 496 lbs or 225 kgs when they get mature.

Upon reaching 2 meters in length, the Pygmy Killer whale males are considered sexually mature and fit for breeding.

They are rarely seen as they only come a few times on the surface of the water to breathe air and loves to stay in deeper waters ranging from 500 m to 2000 m depth.

They do travel at an approximately speed of 3 km/hour (1.8 miles/hour) in the marine water.

Killer Whale (Orca): Appearance and Morphology

Killer Whales Orcas Appearance & Morphology
Diagram: Killer Whales (Orca): Appearance & Morphology

Have you ever noticed what make the Killer whales so big and huge? Yes, it’s their body’s big appearance and morphology. Let’s know a bit about their morphology.

In a typical killer whale (Orca), let it of any type, you’ll probably see a black back with most of the part of the body including all of the fins in black.

They have a white chest and sides, and a white patch above and behind the eye and ear.

Newly born killer whale calves are born with a yellowish or orange tint in those body regions where it’s white in adults. This yellow and orange tint fades to white as the young ones mature.

In every killer whale, you will see a rostrum, melon, blowhole, eye and ear patch, dorsal fin, pectoral fin, genital, anus, saddle, tail fluke, median notch, and caudal peduncle.

On the dorsal side, you will find the black dorsal fin with a dark grey saddle patch across the back behind the dorsal fin.

The caudal peduncle is the part where the tail fluke meet the body. There aren’t any bones or cartilages in the dorsal fin and flukes and so the longitudinal muscles in the back and caudal peduncle move the flukes up and down.

A single blowhole on top of the head is covered by a muscular flap. A killer whale breathes through its blowhole.

A killer whale has an indistinct rostrum which is a snout-like projection that is part of the upper jaw.

The melon is a mass of adipose tissue found in the forehead of all toothed whales. This is their key organ involved in communication and echolocation.

The flukes at the ventral side of the killer whale’s body helps in paddling in water. The anus and genitals are located on the ventral side of the whale’s body.

The eye and ear patch with eyes and ears are located on both sides of the killer whale’s body.

The pectoral fin is black in colour while the eye and ear patch is white in color in the mature adults and juveniles.

A distinct white patch on the underside of the killer whale covers the anus, genitals, and the mammary slits (in females). So, female whales definitely have mammary glands and they do produce milk.

As a toothed whale, they do have a single blowhole only, and powerful upper and lower jaws that are lined on each side with inwardly curved sharp teeth to capture live marine prey.

What is the biggest killer whale ever recorded?

According to the Guiness Book of World Records, the biggest and the largest killer whale ever recorded was a male killer whale that measured 9.8 m (32 ft 1 inch) from head to tail and weighed more than 10,000 kgs (22,050 lbs).

And, the largest recorded female killer whale was 8.5 m (28 ft.) and weighed 7,500 kg (16,500 lbs).

This record making adult male is almost equal to the weight of two fully grown African elephants combined together. That’s incredible, right?

In general, males usually grow to a maximum of around 8 m (26 ft), with females peaking at 7 m (23 ft).

The largest one i.e the Antarctic Killer Whale has a size of about 9.5 m or 31 ft which is just extremely big.

But, this male Killer whale one is 0.3 m more longer than the Antarctic Killer Whale making it the largest and biggest of all of the killer whales in the planet discovered so far.

On 12 October 1958, a bull killer whale (Orcinus orca) with an estimated length of 6.1 to 7.6 m (20-25 ft) was seen to travel at speed of 55.5 km/h (34.5 mph) in the north-eastern Pacific, making it the fastest marine mammal recorded so far by the Guiness Book of World Records.

Killer Whale Vs. Shark: Which one is larger?

The largest Killer Whale called the Antarctic Killer Whale can reach a size of about 9.5 m or 31 ft.

Whereas, the largest shark called the Whale Shark is known to get as large as 18 m or 60 ft very easily.

The smallest shark, called the Dwarf Lantern Shark (Etmopterus perryi) is smaller than a human hand.

Whereas, the smallest Killer Whale called the Pygmy Killer Whale can reach a body length of 8.5 feet or 2.6 m.

The Sharks like the Great White Shark are the deadliest ones, but the Killer Whale species are much bigger and faster than the Great White Sharks. Due to this reason, Killer whales also have an advantage when hunting in big groups.

It is also to be noted that most sharks are intermediate in size having a body length of about 5 to 7 feet (1.5 to 2.1 m). In fact, half of the 368 shark species are under 39 inches (1 m) in length.

Whereas, most of the Killer Whales have a body length between 19 to 26 feet (6 to 8 m).

Majority of the sharks weigh between 250 to 1,000 kgs average. Whereas, a majority of the killer whales can weigh 1350 to 3628 kgs on an average.

So, summing up, it is pretty much cleared that the Killer whales are larger than the sharks with only a few exceptions.

The exceptions like the Whale Shark is about two times bigger than the largest Killer Whale, and with other exceptions in many different shark species as well.

What is the life expectancy of a killer whale?

In the wild, that is in their natural marine habitat, Killer whales are known to have a life expectancy of 80 or 90 years as seen so far.

According to the Center for Whale Research situated in Washington state of USA, have reported that the average lifespan of female orcas in the wild is 50 years, with several individuals living as long as 80–100 years as estimated.

In the wild it has also been reported that if a killer whale survives the first six months, then a female’s average life expectancy is within the range of 46 to 50 years, and a male’s is 30 to 38 years.

While in captivity, Killer whales are seen to have a life expectancy of not more than 30 to 35 years of age.

Wild ones live very very long, that is at least 2 to 3 times more than the captive ones.

Like for instance, an Orca (Killer Whale) named Kayla that was captivated in Sea World Orlando died in January 2019 at 30 years old age.

While in the wild, one female Orca have been reported to have lived till the age of 103 years. That’s a century years old and it’s so incredibly shocking!

Yes, they are really healthy and powerful social marine animals, no doubt in that. But, they don’t do so well when in captivity.

A marine mammal scientist at the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington, D.C, USA named Naomi Rose reported that this intelligent, social animals are genetically built to live, migrate, and feed over great distances in the ocean, and so they cannot thrive for long in captivity.

SUMMING UP: Do killer whales attack humans?

Yes, killer whales can attack humans. They are powerful creatures and for them killing a human is an extremely easy task.

In the wild, no such cases of killer whales attacking humans have been heard so far.

But, in captivity many such instances of killer whales attack on humans have been reported causing many deaths as well.

So, this doesn’t mean that a wild killer whale can’t attack and kill a human. In fact, the wild ones are much more powerful and deadly than the captive ones because they are more adapted in their type of marine environment.

However, no such human attacks have been reported by the wild ones because they are found in all deep oceans and not in shallow waters. And also, they being the most abundant in colder waters like Antarctica, Norway, and Alaska. So, it’s extremely rare for humans to be attacked in such places due to no human and killer whale interactions at all.

While Orca attacks on humans in the wild are rare, and no fatal attacks have been recorded so far. But, human interactions with captive Orcas have been seen in captivity like in the large public aquariums and marine zoo parks leading to deadly human attacks.

Many people will debate that they are relatively harmless when it comes to interactions with humans in the wild. But, that’s not always the rule.

In fact, Killer whales are the powerful top predators that are almost capable of killing leopard seals and great white sharks very easily.

And so, for them killing a human if they find one is not a great deal.

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