Ancient sailors named orca ‘asesina ballenas’, or whale-killer. This name was eventually flipped to today’s common name, killer whale. The scientific name for these whales also makes reference to this – the generic name Orcinus meaning ‘of the kingdom of the dead’ and orca referring to a kind of whale.
Since Linnaeus formally described them in 1758, orca have been regarded as a single species. Scientists have recently uncovered a surprising amount of diversity among the different orca populations around the world. Many populations of orca have distinct vocalisations, food preferences and hunting behaviours. So in a sense they have their own cultures.
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