A Whale With a Culture

by Alexander Mildener, staff reporter


Photography by Leeann Nardella.

        Humans have long been recognized as the only species of animal with a complex culture. However, after extensive scientific observation and study, scientists have been able to prove that the Orca and Killer Whale have sophisticated cultures and social structures of their own, according to the American Cetacean Society.

    There are three types of Orca: Residents, Transients and Offshores. Residents are mainly found in one specific area and feed on a variety of fish species. Transients are nomadic and are constantly moving. According to the book Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby, Transients have been known to travel 100 miles in a single day. Little is known about the Offshores.

    These three types of Orca also have different vocalizations and languages. All animals have different forms of communication, but they have to be extremely complex in order for them to be a languages.

According to NOAA Fisheries, by using a hydrophone, scientists are able to tell what type of Orca they are listening to based on the different vocalizations and sounds being produced. Also,  according to Death at SeaWorld, Killer Whales from Iceland are not able to understand Killer Whales from Vancouver (when placed in the same tank in captivity) because their languages are so different. Killer Whales are the only species of mammal that has a different dialect per family group or pod. Their language is extremely versatile.

    Killer Whale’s social structures are extremely complex. Male Orca’s stay with their mother for their entire life. No one knows why this is the case, but there are several scientific theories. Males will not mate with females that their mother did not introduce them to. Therefore, if they stay with their mother,they are more likely to find a mate. However, some people seem to question the fact that males don’t leave their mothers once they mate. It has been proven that Orca’s are sexually active year round, so the males will never know who the father of the calf is.

Arguably, the most important reason is that it benefits the species as a whole. Males are in charge of babysitting their siblings while their mothers rest and conserve energy. Therefore, the females will have enough energy to feed and defend their pod, and the species thrives as a whole.

    Senior, Bianca Rosembert said, “Each animal, particularly the Orca, has its own characteristics that allow it to successfully survive and thrive in the wild.”

Although males are significantly longer and nearly twice as heavy, it is the females that dominate Orca society. According to Death at SeaWorld, the female is responsible for all the hunting decisions made by the pod. Females are the one’s that pass on hunting traditions from generation to generation.

Without their mothers, males have no place in Orca society. According to Death at SeaWorld, when males are separated from their mothers in captivity, the other females will beat the males because they are considered to be inferior.It is always the oldest female that is the leader of the pod.

According to the documentary, Call of the Killer Whale, Orca’s are truly the equivalence of people in the sea.


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