Subject: ORCAS

Tokitae (
Tue, 6 Jan 1998 00:11:33 -0500 (EST)

Your question is:

>Hello Howard,   This is Rebecca Smith from Nebraska wondering alot of things
>. 1st of all I LOVE ORCAS!!!!!!!!!!! . 2nd of all I want you to tell me all
>you know about whales and their young . Thank you for even reading my letter
>and please e-mail me back A.S.A.P(as soon as possible).  Thanks Rebecca
>Smith     P.S. My E-mail address is  Rebecca

Hi Rebecca,
I love orcas too. Your second question is a bit general. If you are asking
about all whales, there are many answers, depending on species, but all
whales are mammals, so they give birth to live young, rather than eggs or
some larval stage, and the young nurse milk from the mothers. Most of them
stay with their mothers for at least a year learning how to be grownup
whales as they grow. Then they may depart and join up with others about
their age. 

Orca offspring, however (at least in some communities) stay with their
mothers throughout their entire lives. Even after the females have grown up
and had calves of their own, they stay close by their mothers, so there are
sometimes four generations of orcas all together. Even the grown up males,
with their six foot high dorsal fins, stay right beside their mothers their
entire lives. When orca babies are born their brains are already about three
times the size of adult human brains, and when they grow up their brains are
four times the size of human brains. They start to make the same calls that
their mothers make at about two weeks of age (they spend up to 17 months in
their mothers' womb, so they are well developed when they are born). They
start echolocating at about six months, and by the time they are a year old
they are able to catch their own fish.

For more information about orcas, you could read Orca - The Whale Called
Killer, by Erich Hoyt, or Killer Whales, by Ford Ellis and Balcomb, or if
you can find it at the library, read "These whales have gotten to know me"
by Alexandra Morton in the November 1994 issue of Smithsonian magazine. For
more about all whales, you could read The World's Whales, by Minasian and
Balcomb, published by Smithsonian Publishing.

Thanks for asking.