by Sara Heimlich and James Boran
A short but really interesting book on orcas, or killer whales. Discusses their worldwide distribution, physical development, social life, communication, hunting skills, and fate in captivity. All in brief, but at the same time quite informative. Having never read anything about these marine mammals before (aside from a few National Geographic articles, perhaps) there was a lot to interest me. Did you know that there are two distinct groups of orcas that live in the Puget Sound area, some "resident" animals that have a fixed territory, others "transient" who travel through. The former hunt mainly fish, the latter mostly other oceanic mammals, like seals. Their differences have become so marked that scientists believe they are evolving into separate killer whale species. Some other intriguing facts I learned were that orcas have a similar life span to humans- females can live up to eighty years- and the young remain with their mothers for most of their life. They take a long time to mature, and adults actively teach younger whales specialized hunting skills. Their social organization is akin to that of apes or elephants in its complexity. Long vilified for their carnivorous nature, orcas have proven in captivity to be curious, playful, easily trained animals- learning faster and performing more reliably than their popular relatives the dolphins. (Not to say that there haven't been injuries and deaths caused by frustrated, aggressive whales- the book says they get easily stressed by living in confinement). Killer Whales was a tantalizing introduction for me; now I want to read more in depth about these fascinating animals and their three-dimensional aquatic world.
Rating: 3/5 ........ 72 pages, 2001