What purpose does the B/W killer whale color scheme serve? And what evolutionary pressure could possibly force all of them to go B/W in such a peculiar way ie with weird patches in the black. Also why not deep blue rather than black? And their diets are mostly near sea surface so I don't see how it helps them hunt, as stated in wiki

  • $\begingroup$ Interesting question. Can you please link to the wikipedia article and clarify where in the wikipedia article they claim that it their color pattern help them hunt (I think this the claim you are making when referring to wikipedia but I am not sure, so clarification would be welcome if I got this wrong). $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented May 22, 2019 at 21:22
  • $\begingroup$ en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Killer_whale#Feeding $\endgroup$ Commented May 23, 2019 at 1:28
  • $\begingroup$ You can edit your question to add this link in your question and clearly quote the passage that makes the claim that their color pattern help them hunt. $\endgroup$
    – Remi.b
    Commented May 23, 2019 at 2:31

1 Answer 1


Although I'm not much into animal science, but let me try my hands on it.

The entire dorsal (top) surface and pectoral flippers are black except for the gray saddle.

Dorsal view

The ventral (bottom) surface, lower jaw, and undersides of the tail flukes are mostly white. The undersides of the tail flukes are fringed with black.

Ventral view

Now let's come up to the main point, why does this happen?

The source I have referred to says there are two reasons :-

  1. The distinctive coloration of killer whales is a type of disruptive coloration, a pattern that obscures the outline of an animal by contradicting the animal's body shape. In the flickering, filtered sunlight of the sea, other animals may not recognize a killer whale as a potential predator.

  2. When you see the ocean from above, you see complete darkness. This helps the countershaded whale to actually blend with the darkness.

And when you see from underneath, you see light/brightness. The white ventral side again helps them to blend with it.

Source :- https://seaworld.org/animals/all-about/killer-whale/characteristics/

For the part of evolutionary pressure, it has already been answered on SE, visit Selection Pressure on Orca Whale Coloration

  • $\begingroup$ Just one more question tho. Why didn't any other dolphins or well generally marine predators become as black as orcas did? $\endgroup$ Commented May 24, 2019 at 11:51
  • $\begingroup$ @nevertookcoursesbutwhy Because every animal has their own way of defense and their own unique way of dealing with predators or preying someone. Not all the animals (preys/predators) believe in camouflaging. For eg most of the dolphins protect themselves by having a social organisation and strong bonds b/w them. $\endgroup$
    – Ishi
    Commented May 24, 2019 at 12:58
  • $\begingroup$ Other dolphins do have the same counter shading! The orca is just the most extreme example. Additionally, the white patches behind their eyes is designed to a) make them look like a larger predator than they are, b) confuse prey as they are attacking from below. $\endgroup$ Commented Mar 24, 2022 at 19:18

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