Subject: orca whales

Caroline DeLong (
Mon, 19 Apr 1999 15:15:03 -1000

At 12:16 AM 4/19/99 -1000, you wrote:
>I was watching a documentary on TV about whales.  It was mentioned that
>Orca whales are in the Dolphin family of whales.  Could you explain.
>Thank you
>Susan Harrison

Hi Susan,

In the order Cetacea (whales and dolphins), there are two suborders- the
Odontoceti (toothed whales, including dolphins) and the Mysticeti (baleen
whales, like bowheads, humpback whales, blue whales). The Odontoceti
suborder contains many superfamilies, like Plantanistoidea (river
dolphins), Delphinoidea (dolphins, including some small whales), Ziphioidea
(beaked whales), and Physeteroidea  (including the Pygmy Sperm Whale, the
Dwarf Sperm Whale, and the Sperm Whale).  Delphinoidea is broken down into
many families, such as Monodontidae (Irawaddy dolphin, Beluga, Narwhal),
Phocoenidae (the porpoises), and Delphinidae (most dolphins, including the
Bottlenose Dolphin, and the Killer Whale or Orca).  

Thus, Orcas and many dolphins are in the same family (Delphinidae).  

If you would like to refer to a book that includes classification, I
suggest _The Natural History of Whales & Dolphins_ by Peter G.H. Evans, or
a cetacean field guide, like the Sierra Club Handbook. _Marine Mammals of
the World: Systematics and Distribution_ by Dale W. Rice just came out and
is available through the Society for Marine Mammalogy.

Caroline DeLong
Marine Mammal Research Program 
Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology
P.O. Box 1106
Kailua, HI  96734