A conversation that Orca lovers everywhere know all too well:
“What is your favorite whale?”
“They are not whales… they are dolphins”
So, is an Orca (nicknamed Killer Whale) a whale or a dolphin? Granted Killer Dolphin doesn’t sound quite as tough. In reality, however, all dolphins are whales!
Whales, dolphins, and porpoises are scientifically classified as an order of aquatic mammals called Cetaceans. Cetaceans are broken down into just two categories- Baleen Whales and Toothed Whales.
The suborder or Baleen Whales includes some of the larger whales we are familiar with (such as Humpback, Blue and Fin Whales). Instead of teeth, these whales have comb-like plates called baleen that filter their food from the water.
The suborder of Toothed Whales includes porpoises, whales such as Belugas, Narwhals and Sperm Whales, and the entire dolphin family. Orcas are the largest member of the dolphin family. So, while Killer Whales are dolphins, dolphins are toothed whales!
The next time someone tells you that your favorite whale cannot be a Killer Whale- proudly feel free to correct them (and tell them that Flipper is a whale as well)!