Distinctive black-and-white markings make the killer whale (Orcinus orca), also referred to as the orca whale or orca, the most easily recognized of the toothed whales and dolphins. It is a highly social whale, living in long lasting family groups called pods, which consist of adult males and females, and calves of a variety of ages. Pods on average number up to approximately 30 individuals, but groups of up to 150 whales occur when pods come together to form super-pods. Pods are matriarchal and both male and female calves have a tendency to stay with their mother for life. When the young reproduce, their offspring remain to build up multi-generational groupings around the original mother.
Killer whales are found in all oceans, from the frigid Arctic and Antarctic regions to tropical seas. Killer whales as a species have a varied diet, although individual populations often specialize in particular types of prey. Some feed exclusively on fish, while others hunt marine mammals such as seals, sea lions, walruses, and even large whales. Killer whales are regarded as apex predators, lacking natural predators.
Despite its name, the killer whale is approachable and very inquisitive. It has a diversity of complex surface habits, including spy hopping (rising slowly vertically, until its head is above the water), tail and flipper slapping and breaching.