Killer Whale Social Structure

Social structure and behavior of killer whales

Orcas are highly social, and they interact with each other actively; they usually search for food as a group. The hunting tactics in which all members’ participation is essential are fundamental to their survival.

Killer whale groups or pods can gather from 2 to 15 individuals. Sometimes larger groups are seen which include hundreds of them, but experts say this is temporary and is shown only in cases of mating, social contact or abundant food availability. However, after some time, they all return to their pods. The territorial range covered by them is unknown, but there are records that some have managed to move up to 160 km. in a single day.

Their social structures are complex, and most are organized in matriarchal societies. There are several pods within a sub-population that exchange members for breeding purposes. Maintaining a strong group cohesion and communication is essential for the pod. The links between a female and her calf are the strongest within a social group of orcas, but once they grow up they leave the mother to travel either alone or with another pod.

Unlike other species in the animal kingdom, female killer whales are the dominant in their society. Calves receive discipline and education from their mothers, and even “punishment” if they do any wrong action. Hitting their tails in the water, making strong head movements, emitting unusual noises with their teeth and other intimidating body movements, are signs of “anger” of a female.

In activities such as hunting, the social interaction that characterizes this species is the best manifestation. If you can, look for videos of orcas trying to capture marine mammals or penguins. The coordinated strategy and timing showed by all individuals to achieve their goal is amazing. Participants share their prey, and more experienced individuals teach the youngsters the capture techniques. They are very intelligent and with a great sense of survival.

During hunting, you can see orcas chasing theirs victims to tire them, surround them and stun them until they yield. When these large cetaceans notice their next meal, they can perform different maneuvers to achieve their goal. In Polar Regions, they manage to knock down blocks of ice where seals rest quietly. To perform this, they create strong waves that make seals inevitably to fall. Sometimes, the lucky ones or the very skilled manage to get out alive, but most do not have such fortune.

The orcas spend most of their time swimming, feeding and playing. They can spend up to 50% of the day moving from place to place to find food. Part of the rest is used to carry out social and entertainment activities. Although it might seem cruel, they sometimes play with a captured animal throwing it through the air. They can also do it with live animals, which do not necessarily want to eat. Finally, the rest of the day is used for rest and sleep; we’re talking about two or three hours only.

Individual behavior includes jumps, and bumps into the water with the tail or fins and the emission of different sounds. Some of these are made to view his prey or as a form of communication. Some killer whales rub themselves with rocks to remove dead skin.

They have the ability to hunt close to the shore without getting stranded, however, sick or weak individuals can die on beaches or rocky places.

In conclusion, orcas have and interesting individual behavior and social structure. They are very smart, have great ability to work together and an amazing instinct to protect the members of their community.


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