How Did Killer Whales Get Their Name?
Some people might consider Orcas (formerly known as killer whales), to be unfairly named, since they are tame and playful in captivity. But in the wild, killer whales do kill. This kind of whale hunts in packs thereby earning the title “Wolves of the Sea.”
Sailors often saw these whales attacking and killing dolphins, seals, and even other whales. So they called it “the killer.” Because of their fierce reputation, orca is sometimes called the Ballena asesina (“assassin whale”) by the Spanish.
Fishes, squids, seals, sea lions, walruses, birds, sea turtles, otters, penguins, cetaceans, polar bears, reptiles, and even a moose have all been found in the stomach contents of orcas.
And, as their common name implies, the remains of other orcas have also been found in the stomachs of these “killer whales.” It is uncertain why these animals are cannibalistic.
The diets of orcas vary from one region to another. In the Antarctic, orcas eat about 67% fishes, 27% marine mammals and 6% squid. In the Bering Sea near Alaska, they eat about 65% fishes, 20% squids and 15% marine mammals.
For a long time, people thought killer whales attacked and killed anything that came near them, including people. But now we know that killer whales are ferocious only toward their prey. In captivity, they are gentle and easily trained, just like dolphins.