Killer whales (Orcinus orca) are fascinatingly complex. They are highly social and incredibly interactive. Orca pods generally consist of two to 15 individuals, but are sometimes larger. Their social structures are sophisticated, and pods are largely matriarchal. Recent evidence for the grandmother hypothesis suggests killer whale grandmothers continue to aid offspring and help direct the pod after they are no longer able to bear children. (Killer whales and humans are two of the few species that go through menopause.) Communication is important within and between pods. Studies have shown killer whales have specific cultures that are passed down over generations. Killer whales swim up to 160 km (about 100 miles) per day and need lots of room to exercise, hunt, mate an socialize—more room than can be afforded by captivity.
Photo and haiku: Samantha Oester