Are Orcas Not Whales However Dolphins?


Orcas, or killer whales, should not true whales however dolphins.

Truth Examine

Regardless of their colloquial identify, killer whales should not really true whales however are as a substitute a member of the Delphinidae, or dolphin household.

The query got here to mild in July 2022 after a video of a killer whale and dolphin was shared to the Reddit thread natureisfuckinglit. The primary touch upon the video learn, “Enjoyable Truth: Killer whales, or orcas, should not true whale, they’re a species of dolphin.”

That assertion is true. Killer whales, scientific identify Orcinus orca, are extra carefully associated to dolphins than they’re whales.

“Actually, they’re the biggest member of the Delphinidae, or dolphin household. Members of this household embody all dolphin species, in addition to different bigger species comparable to long-finned pilot whales and false killer whales, whose widespread names additionally include ‘whale’ as a substitute of ‘dolphin,’” wrote the NOAA Fisheries in a weblog put up.

Collectively, each whales and dolphins, in addition to their porpoise cousins, are often known as cetaceans. Cetaceans are divided into two teams, notes the Whale and Dolphin Conservancy (WDC). Baleen whales, as their identify suggests, have baleen plates used to filter meals like plankton and small fish. Toothed whales, often known as odontocetes, embody all species of dolphin and porpoise — together with killer whales — and have tooth for bigger prey, together with fish and different marine mammals.

“The primary variations with porpoises are that they’re normally smaller than different toothed whales, and as a substitute of cone-shaped tooth they’ve flat, spade-shaped tooth,” wrote WDC.

“As a basic rule of thumb, baleen whales are bigger and slower (besides the fin whale which is named the ‘greyhound of the ocean’) than toothed whales. Moreover, all baleen whales have two blowholes, whereas toothed whales solely have one.”

As legend holds, sailors who noticed orcas preying on different whales gave them the nickname “whale killer” — a reputation that ultimately morphed into “killer whale,” notes the Ocean Conservancy.

Rising to upwards of 30 ft lengthy, orcas are the biggest of all dolphin species. Their massive measurement might also clarify why the black-and-while marine mammals usually get confused for whales.

“Whereas orcas are members of the marine dolphin household Delphinidae, their general measurement is what units them other than others of their suborder. At the moment, if a dolphin reaches a measurement of greater than 30 ft lengthy, it could be referred to by some as a whale, however the guidelines of taxonomy nonetheless classify the orca as a dolphin,” wrote the Ocean Conservancy.

Except for tooth, measurement and blowholes, the Canadian Wildlife Federation provides that there are a number of different organic elements to contemplate when figuring out whether or not an animal is a dolphin or a whale. These embody dorsal fins, neck vertebrae, the scale of brains, social behaviors, communication methodologies, and social group construction.

Killer whales are charismatic creatures, and so they usually discover themselves within the heart of digital rumors. Listed below are a few of Snopes’ different favourite orca tales:


“Information about Orcas (Killer Whales).” Whale & Dolphin Conservation USA, Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

Fisheries, NOAA. “11 Cool Information About Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises | NOAA Fisheries.” NOAA, 26 Might 2022,

“11 Cool Information About Whales, Dolphins, and Porpoises | NOAA Fisheries.” NOAA, 26 Might 2022,

“Learn how to Inform the Distinction Between Dolphins and Porpoises.” Ocean Conservancy, 22 Feb. 2019,

ITIS – Report: Delphinidae. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

kilroy000. “Enjoyable Truth: Killer Wha….” R/NatureIsFuckingLit, 27 June 2022,

What Is the Distinction Between Whales, Dolphins and Porpoises? – Your Connection to Wildlife. Accessed 4 Aug. 2022.

“Why Is an Orca Not a Whale?” Ocean Conservancy, 13 Mar. 2019,


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