Vulnerability: data deficient
What is it?
The orca, also known as killer whale, is a toothed whale that is easy to recognize because of its black and white patterns. Males (6-8 meters) are larger than females (5-7 meters), and also have identifiable high and straight dorsal fins. The orca is an apex predator. Its diet consists mostly of large fish, and marine mammals from seals to dolphins and even small whales, which is where the name "killer whale" comes from. However, it has never been known to intentionally harm humans in the wild.
Where is it?
Orcas are found everywhere in the world's oceans, as well as the Mediterranean. They are absent from the Baltic sea. It is difficult to say orcas are common in any East Atlantic Arctic country, as they prefer certain areas, and it is not particularly common to see them close to shore even in these areas. However, it is known that the Norwegian and Icelandic population are the largest. Orcas are not uncommon around the Faroe Islands. In Greenland, they are only seen occasionally. Finally, a small part of the Norwegian population extends to Svalbard, where orca numbers have been increasing.
- Orcas have been separated in types, which are debated to form subspecies or even separate species. These types are based on criteria such as appearance, geographic distribution, lifestyle and diet.
- Since 2020, some orcas have been observed to attack the rudder and hull of sail boats off of the coast of Spain and Portugal. However, the individuals responsible seem to be playful juveniles, simply curious about the boats. Still, this behavior is unprecedented, and needs to be investigated further.
- Baird, Robin W. (2002). Killer Whales of the World. Stillwater, MN.: Voyageur Press. ISBN 978-0-7603-2654-1.
- Bloch, D., Mikkelsen, B., & Ofstad, L. H. (2001). Marine Mammals in Faroese Waters With Special Attention to the South-south-eastern Sector of the Region.
- Jourdain, E., Ugarte, F., Víkingsson, G. A., Samarra, F. I. P., Ferguson, S. H., Lawson, J., Vongraven, D., & Desportes, G. (2019). North Atlantic killer whale Orcinus orca populations: a review of current knowledge and threats to conservation. Mammal Review, 49(4), 384–400. https://doi.org/10.1111/MAM.12168
- Killer whale. (n.d.). Norsk Polarinstitutt. Retrieved November 17, 2021, from https://www.npolar.no/en/species/killer-whale/
- Victoria Gill (November 2020). "Have rogue orcas really been attacking boats in the Atlantic?". BBC News.