Do killer whales have enemies?

From: Phil Clapham (
Date: Fri Mar 07 2003 - 16:32:18 EST

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    Hi Stephanie:

    The answer to your question about killer whales is that they really don't
    have enemies to speak of. It is possible that small killer whale groups
    in the tropics (killer whales are found everywhere from the tropics to the
    poles) occasionally suffer attacks by large sharks, though I dont know of
    any reliable report of this. It's hard to imagine a shark getting the
    better of even a lone killer whale - they're pretty fearsome critters!
    As I'm sure you've found out, there are at least two types of killer
    whales, which are so different ecologically and genetically that they're
    probably on their way to becoming separate species. The "residents" (who
    aren't really resident!) eat fish, while the "transients" (who aren't
    always transient!) feed mostly on marine mammals. It has been suggested
    that resident killer whales may occasionally suffer attacks from
    transients (the mammal-eaters), and there's at least one case of a group
    of residents apparently attacking a transient killer whale (maybe for
    defence). But no one thinks that this is a regular occurrence.
    So... the bottom line is, with occasional possible exceptions, killer
    whales have no natural enemies. Humans have, as you suggest, been a major
    enemy of killer whales in some places. They have been shot by fishermen
    (who think they eat too mucch fish) and occasionally even killed by
    whalers. Then of course they have been captured for display in aquaria,
    which probably inflicts serious damage on their tight-knit social
    Hope this helps.

    Best wishes,

    Phil Clapham

    Phillip J. Clapham, Ph.D.
    Large Whale Biology Program
    Northeast Fisheries Science Center
    166 Water Street
    Woods Hole, MA 02543

    Tel (508) 495-2316 Fax (508) 495-2066

    > I am a second grader at McKenzie School in Wilmette, IL, and I am doing > a project on killer whales. I wrote out over 20 questions and had to > find the answers in library books and on the internet. My teacher > asked me a few more, and one question I'm not sure what the answer is > and cannot find any answer. Her question is: Do killer whales have > any enemies? I could not find anything except the pollution in the > oceans and maybe people > themselves. If you could help me out with this, I would appreciate it. > > Thank you so much. > > Stephanie Wert

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