orcas, or Orcinus orca, are marine mammals that belong to the cetacean group. In English they are called killer whale,which can be translated as “killer whale”, however, killer whales are from the family of dolphins and not whales and the adjective “killer” was given to them because they are excellent hunters who attack in groups and who do not hesitate to attack all the animals that cross their path (white shark or blue whale).
But… where do orcas live? In this article from PlanèteAnimal we will see together the exact distribution of killer whales on the world map!
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Where do orcas live?
If we looked on a map where killer whales live, we would have to put a cross on all the oceans of the world because these are the cetaceans whose distribution is the widest. Their range is so vast that they have been considered, after humans, the mammals with the longest range on the planet.
Thus, killer whales live between the northern Arctic Ocean and southern Antarctica. Although they have preferences for colder waters, they can perfectly live in tropical waters as well as in semi-enclosed seas, such as the Mediterranean, the Sea of Okhotsk, the Gulf of California, the Gulf of Mexico, the Red Sea and the Persian Gulf.
It seems that these marine mammals do not migrate in response to temperature changes because they only move when food is scarce. On the other hand, it is estimated that they tend to be less present in the warm Gulf Stream and the Kuroshio Current, while they are more present in the more productive eastern boundary currents, such as the California Current, as well as in the cold waters of the Oyashio and Falklands currents.
Habitat of killer whales
As they are marine animals, it is logical that their habitat consists of the aquatic environment. As we said, killer whales live in all the oceans of the world.
These cetaceans do not have a single pattern in terms of the habitat in which they thrive. In this sense, they may have a preference for depths between 20 and 60 meters, but they can also be seen in shallow waters close to the coast, while in other cases they are able to dive up to 300 meters away.
Scientists have recognized that there is enough information to establish different subspecies of killer whales and even different species. However, in the last study of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) carried out in 2017 on these mammals, the taxonomic aspects had not been completely defined and only one species and two subspecies remained unnamed. scientist, but were referred to as the oresident ark of the northeast pacific and the passing orca of the northeast pacific.
However, we already know that there are morphological and genetic differences between groups of killer whales and distinct ecological characteristics have also been identified, and this may be the reason killer whales do not have a unique habitat pattern. In this sense, killer whales can make long migratory journeys of several thousand kilometers or stay in particular areas. Some, for example, are used to entering Antarctic ice sheet systems to hunt, while others feed in open waters. Find out all about orca feeding!
Are captive orcas happy?
Now that you know where killer whales live, you may have noticed that we left out the water parks where killer whales are exploited. The keeping of orcas in captivity has been hotly debated for decades, as there have always been questions about whether these animals are healthy by being confined in small tanks. However, thanks to advances in science and the involvement of more and more people in solving these problems, we are now certain that orcas in captivity are not happy. The position of their dorsal fin is proof of this, as you can find out in the following article: Why do killer whales have a falling fin?
Killer whales are animals that have a series of anatomical, physiological and social characteristics adapted to living freely in the great oceans. When this vital process is interrupted, the animal is condemned to a life of suffering and misfortune, because all cetaceans are very sociable animals, whose intelligence has even been studied. Indeed, studies indicate that killer whales are self-aware and that captivity affects them greatly. There is enough evidence to indicate how inappropriate it is to keep these animals in parks and zoos for entertainment purposes, as it causes them terrible stress and damages their health. For one thing, there are over 100 reported cases of killer whales attacking their handlers, some even resulting in the death of those people.
In addition, it is known that between 1977 and 2019, around 70 orcas were born in captivity around the world and none of them managed to live beyond 30 years, while in the state wild they can live between 50 and 80 years. Only a few orcas captured and kept in this state of slavery have managed to live longer than 30 years.
There are currently several movements and groups active in the defense of orcs. In countries such as the United States and Canada, where it was traditional to capture these mammals for display in parks, there has been significant pressure to change these traditions, even from a legislative perspective. However, many of these animals are still in captivity and it is no longer possible to release them into the sea. The only viable solution is therefore to resort to marine sanctuaries in which they can live out their old age.
Once again, at PlanèteAnimal, we want to encourage our readers to support the various groups and official institutions that work for killer whales and other wild animals. There are many ways to collaborate and you can, for example, not pay to attend shows that exhibit these animals, make economic contributions directly to conservation associations or simply disseminate information on these issues.
If you want to read more articles like Where do orcas livewe recommend that you consult the Curiosities of the animal world section.
- Daly, N. (2019). Las orcas no soportan bien la cautividad. ¿Por que? Available at: https://www.nationalgeographic.es/animales/2019/03/las-orcas-no-soportan-bien-la-cautividad-por-que
- Burnett, E. (2009). Orcinus orca. Animal Diversity Web. Available at: https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Orcinus_orca/
- Peta (2022). Urge Build-A-Bear to Rethink Cruel SeaWorld Partnership. Available at: https://support.peta.org/page/35056/action/1
- Reeves, R., Pitman, RL & Ford, JKB (2017). Orcinus orca. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Available at: https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2017-3.RLTS.T15421A50368125.en
WHERE DO ORCS LIVE? – Housing and distribution