Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) - Ask Shamu

FAQ Topic List



SeaWorld - Animals (General)

  1. How much does it cost to feed your animals?
    We acquire our animals in many ways. SeaWorld has an amazing breeding program, for example, and we have had more than 24,000 animals born throughout our parks including more than 25 successful killer whale births and more than 150 bottlenose dolphin births. We have the best facilities in the world for breeding many types of animals, including killer whales and other dolphins. With proper government permits, we may collect animals from the wild or rescue sick, orphaned, or injured animals. SeaWorld has the finest facilities on the planet for the rescue, rehabilitation, and release of stranded animals, so many of the creatures that you see at our parks have been rescued. Our main goal is to release these animals. However, some of them are so badly injured that they would not survive in the wild. We have some endangered manatees and sea turtles that cannot be released due to severe injuries and others such as white pelicans and sand hill cranes that have had their wings damaged in the wild and can no longer fly. Finally, we may obtain animals from other zoological parks or private breeders.
  2. Where do you get your animals?
    The price of fish fluctuates too widely to give you a consistent figure. We feed our adult bottlenose dolphins between 25 to 35 pounds of fish every day (fish such as mackerel, smelt, capelin, and herring). You can go to your local supermarket and investigate how much 25 to 35 pounds of these types of fish would cost in your area to get an idea of the daily cost to feed just one dolphin.

    Manatees are probably the most expensive animals in our parks to feed. Our largest one eats 180 pounds of romaine lettuce every day, plus apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes. Again, you can look these prices up at your local supermarket.

SeaWorld - Parks & History

  1. How long has SeaWorld been around?
    SeaWorld San Diego, the first SeaWorld, opened on March 21, 1964.
  2. Does SeaWorld offer any volunteer programs?
    SeaWorld does not have internship/work study/volunteer programs to work with our animals or biologists. The only exception to this is at our Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute, which you can read about at hswri.org.

    If you would like to work for our park, please check out our online job site at www.seaworldjobs.com. If you see a position you feel qualified for, then we hope you apply for it. You may also want to check for internship or job opportunities at other zoological parks around the United States by going to www.aza.org.
  3. Do you have internships at SeaWorld?
    SeaWorld Orlando Zoological Operations offers internships in the Education Department. Interns teach SeaWorld Adventure Camp. For further information on this program, view the internship materials within the Career Resources section.

    SeaWorld San Antonio and SeaWorld San Diego do not currently offer any internships.
  4. What are the requirements for the vet internship/vet residency program?
    The veterinarian internship at SeaWorld Orlando is limited to those already in their clinical years at a veterinarian school. Interested students need to contact Dr. Ted Mashima at the Virginia Maryland Regional College of Veterinarian Medicine for more information.

    In California, UC Davis offers a rotating 3-year Veterinary Residency Program that takes place at UC Davis, the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Wild Animal Park, the Sacramento Zoo and SeaWorld. For more information visit www.vetmed.ucdavis.edu/vmth.
  5. What is the history of SeaWorld?
    In the early 1960s, four UCLA fraternity brothers, led by Milton Shedd, wanted to build an ocean-themed restaurant with an underwater view. Southern California natives, these young grew up loving the sea, and wanted to create a place that could allow others to experience the wonders of the ocean firsthand. From the beginning, they pledged their venture would be dedicated to education, entertainment, research and conservation. What began as an entrepreneurial idea for the founding foursome evolved into a unique and innovative venture they called SeaWorld. That dream was realized with the opening of SeaWorld California on San Diego's beautiful Mission Bay.

    Here are some highlights of SeaWorld over the past four decades:

    1963 To honor marine science leaders Dr. Carl and Laura Hubbs, the non-profit Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute was created by scientists and the founders of SeaWorld to "return to the sea some measure of the benefit derived from it." You can learn more about the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute by visiting their website at www.hswri.org.
    1964 SeaWorld San Diego opens to the public.
    1973 SeaWorld opens a new park on December 15, 1973 in a small Florida town called Orlando. SeaWorld Orlando, along with its sister park in San Diego, launch the Animal Rescue and Rehabilitation program.
    1976 SeaWorld Orlando rescues its first Florida manatee.
    1980 SeaWorld San Diego becomes the first zoological park to breed emperor penguins outside of the Antarctic.
    1985 The first killer whale to be born and thrive in the care of humans takes its first breath at SeaWorld Orlando on September 26, 1985 at 6:21 PM EST. Eight years later this whale goes on to give birth herself.
    1988 SeaWorld San Antonio opens in Texas. This park becomes the largest marine life park in the world.
    1989 Following a rare cold snap in Florida, SeaWorld Orlando rescues and rehabilitates 95 green sea turtles trapped in the Indian River Lagoon. After months of expert care, more than 50% are successfully retuned to their natural habitat.
    1992 SeaWorld San Diego is the first park to conduct a flight feather transplant on an endangered brown pelican.
    1993 Through the IUCN Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, SeaWorld funds a population and habitat viability analysis in the Yangtze River, the baiji river dolphin's native habitat in China. With only about 200 left, captive breeding may be the only way to save this rare species.
    1994 Gilly, an Atlantic bottlenose dolphin calf found weak and dehydrated, is rescued by SeaWorld San Antonio and the Texas Marine Mammal Stranding Network.
    1995 During this year alone SeaWorld rehabilitates more than 50 beached or injured sea turtles, many of which suffer sustained injuries and cannot be released. Some of these individuals now make their permanent home at SeaWorld.
    1996 To help add to much-needed baseline data on sharks, SeaWorld participates in nurse shark research in the Dry Tortugas, a critical habitat for shark pups.
    1997 To support the United Nations-declared "Year of the Reef," SeaWorld, the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, and the U.S. Departments of State and Commerce support a coral reef initiative, including research, education and conservation programs.
    1998 After 14 months at SeaWorld San Diego, J.J. the gray whale is successfully released into her native California waters.
    1999 A decade after the devastating Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound, SeaWorld San Diego, along with the California Department of Fish and Game and the University of California, Davis, breaks ground on the SeaWorld Oiled Wildlife Care Center.
    2000 SeaWorld and South African environmental groups struggle to save the third largest colony penguin colony in the world after a large iron-ore carrier sank off the west coast of Cape Town, South Africa on Friday, June 23. The event caused a major oil spill with severe repercussions on the wildlife in the area. Bird experts worked around the clock to de-oil and rehabilitate nearly 50% of the African Penguin species in hopes the penguins will survive.
    2001 The world's first killer whale conceived through artificial insemination was born on September 1, 2001 at 8:50 PM. The mother, a 25-year-old killer whale, gave birth to a healthy calf at Shamu Stadium, under the watchful eyes of the park's veterinarians, animal care and animal training teams.
    2003 SeaWorld Orlando celebrates its 30th year!
    2004 The 500th sea turtle to be rehabilitated and released by the animal experts at SeaWorld Orlando waded safely into the waters off the coast of Cocoa Beach. This 100-pound loggerhead received six months of specialized care and rehabilitation at SeaWorld before being released. SeaWorld handles the majority of its sea turtle rescues during the summer months because of increased boating and recreational activities in areas frequented by turtles.

    What began off of Mission Bay in 1964 with an initial investment of $1.5 million, 45 employees, several sea lions and one salt water aquarium has grown into the world's finest marine life parks. 400,000 guests visited the park in 1964, and now millions of people are touched by marine animals at the SeaWorld parks every year. The heightened sensitivity to marine conservation issues is due in large part to the experiences people have in parks like SeaWorld.

    In addition to the SeaWorld parks, Orlando-based SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment operates Busch Gardens in Tampa Bay, Florida and Williamsburg, Virginia; Adventure Island in Tampa Bay; Water Country USA in Williamsburg; Sesame Place near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Discovery Cove in Orlando, Florida; and Aquatica in Orlando and San Antonio, Texas. The eleven parks entertained more than 24 million guests in 2012 and employ more than 21,000 people. For more than 40 years, SeaWorld and Busch Gardens have shared their commitment to conservation with millions of guests, who leave not only with greater appreciation of the natural world, but with adventures of a lifetime. Leaders in conservation and education, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens, and Discovery Cove care for one of the largest animal collections in the world and offer an education website especially for students and teachers at www.swbg-animals.org. General park information is on the web at www.seaworldparksandentertainment.com.
  6. What do you do before a hurricane hits your park?
    We prepare our park for a hurricane in many ways. The first task is to make sure all types of potential flying objects are removed and stored away (flags, garbage cans, potted plants, etc.). We secure all buildings and park exhibits, and we take in animals like birds that are in outdoor aviaries. Our animal habitats are designed to withstand hurricane force winds, and we had not lost a single animal despite being hit by three major hurricanes within a six week period in 2004.
  7. How does SeaWorld help conserve wildlife and their habitats?
    The non-profit SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF) works on behalf of wildlife and habitats worldwide. The goal of the SWBGCF is to encourage sustainable solutions by supporting critical conservation initiatives worldwide. The SWBGCF has sponsored a number of projects on aquatic and terrestrial animals, animal rescue and rehabilitation, habitat protection, and conservation education.
    • The SWBGCF conducts grant awards each year. Since 2003, the SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund has granted $9 million to more than 500 projects in countries around the world. Selected projects must be science-based, solution-driven, and community-oriented - attributes needed to achieve effective and long-term conservation success. Groups working on animal conservation projects are invited to apply for a SWBGCF grant. Projects are carefully selected by a diverse mix of wildlife experts, scientists, business leaders, and educators.
    • The SWBGCF accepts donations to support conservation projects in the U.S. and around the world. 100% of donations go directly to selected projects. In addition, cash or check donations can be made at any SeaWorld or Busch Gardens park at the Guest Services counter or in select merchandise outlets. Stores throughout the parks also now feature a special line of cause-related merchandise, of which a percentage of the purchase price is donated to the SWBG Fund. For guests wanting more of an experience, they can sign up for a "Saving a Species" behind-the-scenes tour, of which a portion of the tour price benefits the Fund.

Animal Training & Careers

  1. Can I interview a trainer?
    Our trainers are very busy plus they have limited access to computers and phones, so unfortunately they are not able to answer interview questions. However, we have a group of senior educators at the Ask Shamu service. We are quite knowledgeable on our parks and on the duties of our employees such as the trainers. If you have questions, please let us know and we can answer on behalf of the trainers if that is that is allowed by your teacher. Please limit your questions to no more than ten.
  2. How do I become a marine animal trainer?
    The following information is SeaWorld's basic job description, requirements, and background information on an entry-level animal trainer position.
    • ANIMAL TRAINER

      Responsible for the daily care, feeding and maintenance of show animals. Develops and trains animal behaviors and performs in animal shows for the public and educational shows for school groups. An apprenticeship period of at least a year is required for all trainer positions, even with previous experience.

      Our requirements for animal trainers include:
      • must be at least 18 years of age
      • prior experience training animals
      • public speaking, drama, or other performance and communication skills (a microphone test is part of the interview process)
      • experience working with animals
      • scuba diving certification
      • CPR certification
      • an ability to interact with the public
      • academic coursework in zoology, marine biology, animal behavior or psychology (preference is given to those applicants with a college degree)
      • strong swimming skills (part of the interview process is a rigorous swim test that includes a 200 ft. freestyle swim, a 100 ft. underwater swim, and a free-dive to the bottom of a 26 ft. pool.)
      • excellent physical health and the ability to lift 50 lbs.

      In addition, even with previous training experience, new trainers are hired as associate trainers, and learn about SeaWorld’s training methods and animals in at least a one-year apprenticeship period.

    • HOW TO GET EXPERIENCE
      To try and see if a career in animal training or animal care is for you, SeaWorld offers a weeklong Career Camp for grades 9-12 during the summer at all three parks. Check online at SWBG-AdventureCamps.com for more information.

      Many colleges and universities offer internship opportunities along with the local zoos or aquariums as part of a zoological science or similar type of degree program. Moorpark College in Southern California offers a special Exotic Animal Training and Management program designed for those who want to enter into zoological careers. In Florida, Santa Fe Community College and Pensacola Junior College offer similar programs. Volunteering at a local animal shelter, veterinarian, or wildlife rescue facility is another great way to get experience. In addition, many zoos and aquariums have docent or other volunteer positions available. It is also helpful to gain experience at the park or facility that you’re interested in working for. At SeaWorld, many of our openings for trainer and animal care positions go to applicants that have worked at the park in another department such as education - so this is a great way to get your foot in the door.

    Another thing to keep in mind is when position openings are available. At SeaWorld, we have most openings for trainers and animal care in the early spring, and usually post these positions on our website (www.seaworldjobs.com) in late winter. During this time we hold the swim tests and microphone tests as the initial parts of the interview process.

    As you can imagine, we get hundreds of applicants each year for trainer positions. For killer whale trainers there may only be one or two openings each year— so this is an even more competitive area to get into. While a college degree is not currently required, those applicants that have a degree in marine biology, animal behavior, zoology, psychology, or related fields are almost always the ones that get interviews. Also, the swim test and microphone test are critical parts of the interview process. Most people who take these tests do not pass the underwater swim portion of this test, so it is critical to practice for this.

    The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (www.aza.org) also posts career information and job openings on its website. We also have a lot more info on our website (www.swbg-animals.org) about training and other animal careers. Other great sites to check out are the websites for the International Marine Animal Training Association (www.imata.org) and the Society for Marine Mammalogy (this has an excellent section on pursuing a career in marine mammal science at http://www.marinemammalogy.org).
  3. How long does it take to train an animal?
    The answer to your question varies from animal to animal as they are all unique. Humans learn at different levels, and so do the animals. Some learn behaviors quickly while others take much longer. In other words, some animals may pick up on a particular behavior faster than others, and some may never fully grasp a behavior no matter how much they are trained. You can learn more about our animals and how we train them by visiting the Animal Training infobook.
  4. What is a trainer's average day like?
    Trainers typically work eight hours a day but sometimes more if necessary.

    The components of an average day are divided into the various sessions with the animals which are: learning, relationship, exercise, play, and shows. The number and frequency of these sessions vary each day to create an enriching and stimulating environment for the animals - they never know what is going to happen next. Along with these sessions are the other duties like food preparation and distribution, assisting veterinarians with medical examinations, keeping the animal habitats clean and safe, observing the animals and documenting behavior and maintaining the health and diet records. Sometimes trainers may travel to the other parks and to meetings and conferences, but it is not a large component of the position.

    An animal trainer's job is one of the most visible and desired jobs in a zoological park, it is also one of the most rigorous. Trainers must perform in front of large audiences, being entertaining and enthusiastic each time. They spend many hours in 55°F water and free dive regularly to 35 feet (10.7 m), they lift and move 50 lb (22.7 kg) buckets throughout the day. They must also be patient and consistent when working with the animals. They can be scheduled to work at any time and day of the week and they work outdoors in all types of weather.

Whales

  1. How do whales hold their breath?
    The sperm whale can hold its breath for 20 minutes to even an hour or more. Many other whales can hold their breath for 10 minutes to a half hour. All marine mammals have special physiological adaptations during a dive. These adaptations enable a whale to conserve oxygen while underwater.
    • Whales, like other mammals, have a slower heart rate while diving.
    • When diving, blood is shunted (moved) away from tissues tolerant of low oxygen levels toward the heart, lungs, and brain, where oxygen is needed most.
    • Certain protein molecules - hemoglobin and myoglobin - store oxygen in body tissues. Hemoglobin occurs in red blood cells. Myoglobin occurs in muscle tissue. Marine mammals have a higher blood volume (and more hemoglobin) than similarly-sized land mammals. In addition, the muscle of whales has at least twice the myoglobin concentration of the muscle of land mammals.
  2. How do whales sleep?
    Whales sleep in the water, usually at the surface. Studies suggest that, unlike in land mammals, deep sleep in whales probably happens in only one hemisphere of the brain at a time.

    Killer whales have been observed resting both day and night for short periods of time or as long as eight hours straight. While resting, killer whales may swim slowly or make a series of 3 to 7 short dives of less than a minute before making a long dive for up to three minutes.
  3. How much krill does a whale eat each day?
    Most whales do not eat krill, but the baleen whales that do can eat more than a thousand pounds of krill each day. An adult blue whale, the largest animal in the world, can eat four tons (8,000 pounds) of krill a day.
  4. Can whales swim far?
    Yes, some whales like the gray whales swim as much as 12,000 miles each year on their migration from feeding grounds in the Arctic all the way down to breeding and calving grounds in Baja California, Mexico.
  5. Do whales ever fight with each other?
    Dolphins, including killer whales have many social behaviors and some of these such as raking (scratching the skin of another dolphin with its teeth) and head-butting are used to establish and maintain dominance in dolphin groups. Some killer whales hunt and feed on other marine mammals, including other whales such as Dahl's porpoises and even gray whales and blue whales.
  6. Do you have California gray whales?
    SeaWorld San Diego has rescued, rehabilitated, and released a gray whale calf in the past, but does not currently have any gray whales. Some wild whales that are sick, orphaned, or injured are rescued by marine mammal rescue facilities, like SeaWorld, and are rehabilitated and released when possible.
  7. Are whales related to dolphins?
    Yes, dolphins are a kind of whale, so all dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins. Other kinds of whales (that are not dolphins) include baleen whales (like gray whales and humpbacks), sperm whales, porpoises, river dolphins, beluga whales and narwhals, and beaked whales. For more information on whales, view the Baleen Whales, Beluga Whale, Bottlenose Dolphin, Killer Whale, and Toothed Whales infobooks.
  8. How many teeth do whales have?
    It depends on the kind of whale. Killer whales have 40 to 56 teeth. Most beaked whale males only have a single pair of teeth and most female beaked whales have no teeth. A sperm whale only has teeth in its lower jaw, which fit into grooves in its upper jaw. Baleen whales, like gray, humpback or blue whales have no teeth - instead they have rows of long plates of baleen in their mouths that they use to strain food out of the water.
  9. How many different kinds of whales are there?
    Scientists are still discovering new species of whales. There are at least 85 species of whales including at least 73 species of toothed whales and 12 to 14 species of baleen whales.
  10. How long is a blue whale?
    The blue whale is the largest animal on earth (growing larger than even the biggest of dinosaurs were). A 100 foot blue whale is as long as three school buses. Blue whales grow to about 70 to 80 feet in the northern hemisphere (north of the equator) and 90 to 100 feet in the southern hemisphere (south of the equator). Female blue whales grow larger than males. The longest blue whale ever recorded was 110 feet.

Dolphins

  1. How do dolphins find their food?
    Dolphins can see their prey, but in murky (low visibility) conditions they use echolocation to find their food. To echolocate, dolphins produce high frequency pulses of clicks that can bounce off an object (or prey animal) and dolphins can listen for the echo (the bounced off sound waves) to gain information about the object. With echolocation, dolphins can determine size, shape, speed, distance, direction, and even some internal structure of objects in the water.
  2. How can people swim with dolphins?
    In U.S. waters, it is illegal to feed, touch, swim, with or disturb the natural behavior of wild dolphins. You can find out more information on safely viewing wild dolphins at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/education/protectdolphins.htm.

    SeaWorld Parks and Discovery Cove offer safe, enjoyable interactions with dolphins and other marine mammals. SeaWorld San Diego's Dolphin Interaction Program is one program where people are able to get into the water with some of our dolphins. In addition, SeaWorld San Diego offers a Trainer for a Day program in which guests are able to swim with a dolphin. Visit www.seaworld.com for more information on SeaWorld's animal interaction programs. Discovery Cove in Florida also offers a Dolphin Swim program. To learn more visit www.discoverycove.com.
  3. What does the Navy do with its dolphins?
    The Navy has an excellent website on its Marine Mammal Program. Visit http://spawar.navy.mil/sandiego/technology/mammals/ for more information.
  4. What is the difference between dolphins and a porpoises?
    Dolphins and porpoises are both cetaceans (whales), but belong to different families. The main differences between the dolphin and porpoise families include tooth shape (dolphins' teeth are conical and porpoises' are spade- shaped), dorsal fin shape (most dolphins' are falcate and curve back; most porpoises are triangular), and the structure of the skull (dolphins tend to have a more elongated snout, while porpoises' snouts are blunt).
  5. How do dolphins communicate?
    Scientists have shown that dolphins can communicate. However, there is no evidence that they use anything like human language.

    To communicate, dolphins make different sounds and postures. The sounds they produce resemble whistles, moans, trills, grunts, squeaks, and creaks. Researchers have found that different killer whale populations have different dialects and probably would not be able to communicate as effectively with killer whales in other parts of the world. Dolphins also have many behaviors that function in communication. For example, to establish and maintain dominance, a more dominant dolphin will use its teeth to rake (scratch) the side of a less dominant dolphin. A male bottlenose dolphin often forms a close bond with another male. They will often engage in cooperative behavior such as perfectly coordinated leaps out of the water together.

    For more information, you may want to look at the Animal Training, Dolphin, and Killer Whale infobooks. You may also want to look at the following books:
    • Herman, Louis (editor). 1980. Cetacean Behavior: Mechanisms and Functions. New York. Wiley.
    • Payne, Roger (editor). 1983. Communication and Behavior of Whales. AAAS Selected Symposium No. 76. Boulder, CO. Westview Press.
    • Schusterman, Ronald J., Jeanette A. Thomas, and Forrest G. Wood (editors). 1986. Dolphin Cognition and Behavior: A Comparative Approach. Hillsdale, NJ. L. Erlbaum Associates.

Killer Whales

  1. How fast can killer whales swim?
    A killer whale can reach speeds of 28 miles per hour. They usually swim much more slowly at about 6 to 8 miles per hour. Human Olympic swimmers can only swim at top speeds of 4.5 miles per hour.
  2. What do killer whales eat?
    Some killer whales, like those at SeaWorld, eat mostly fish. Other killer whales eat other marine mammals (whales, seals, and sea lions), sharks and rays, octopus and squids, seabirds such as penguins, and some even eat leatherback sea turtles.
  3. How small is a baby killer whale?
    Size estimates of calves born at SeaWorld suggest that newborn calves are about 2.6 m (8.5 ft.) long and weigh 120 to 160 kg (265-353 lb.).
  4. How big does a killer whale get?
    The killer whale is the largest member of the dolphin family Delphinidae. As with most other toothed whales, male killer whales grow larger than females. An average-size male grows to about 5.8 to 6.7 m (19-22 ft.) long. Two fully grown adult male killer whales at SeaWorld weigh 4,082 kg (9,000 lb.) and 5,380 kg (11,860 lb.). An average-size female killer whale is 4.9 to 5.8 m (16-19 ft.). SeaWorld’s adult females whales between the ages of 16 and 41 years old range in weight from 2,313 kg (5,100 lb.) to 3,719 kg (8,200 lb.).
  5. Why is Shamu black and white?
    The coloration of killer whales may enhance their ability to hunt. Killer whales are counter-shaded; they are dark on their dorsal surface and white on their ventral surface. The dark side blends in with the murky ocean depths when viewed from above. The light ventral side blends in with the lighter surface of the sea when seen from below. The result is that prey have a difficult time seeing a contrast between the counter-shaded killer whale and the environment.

    In addition, killer whales have disruptive coloration, a camouflage in which the color pattern of an animal contradicts the animal's body shape. In the flickering, filtered sunlight of the sea, other animals may not recognize a killer whale as a potential threat.
  6. Why does a killer whale have a hole on top of its head?
    Killer whales and other whales have a blowhole on top of the head. This is basically like having your nose on top of your head. This helps the whale because they can’t breathe underwater, but when they come up for a breath of air, the top of their head comes out of the water first so they can take a breath right away.
  7. How many killer whales are there worldwide?
    Killer whales are found in oceans throughout world. The worldwide population of killer whales is unknown. NOAA Fisheries Service has stock assessments available for some populations of killer whales at http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/prot_res/PR2/
    Stock_Assessment_Program/individual_sars.html.
  8. Why do some killer whales' dorsal fins flop over?
    Scientists are not sure why the dorsal fins of some killer whales flop over and the dorsal fins of other do not.The dorsal fins of killer whales are supported only by connective tissue and not bone. In a study of killer whales in New Zealand waters, 23% of the wild males had dorsal fins that bent over. Newborn killer whales all have floppy dorsal fins that stiffen a few days after birth.
    Scientists have a couple of theories as to why the dorsal fins of some killer whales flop over. One theory is that the surrounding water helps support the dorsal fin. A killer whale that spends more time at the surface, with its fin protruding out of the water, has a greater tendency for its fin to bend. Additionally, collagen becomes more flexible when warmed, such as if it is exposed to sunlight. Another theory supports a genetic tendency for a dorsal fin to bend. These two factors may work in combination or there may be other factors involved. The dorsal fin of an adult male killer whale can grow to six feet tall, which may be why their fins have a greater tendency to bend. Neither the shape nor the droop of a whale's dorsal fin are indicators of a killer whale's health or well-being.
  9. Which one is Shamu?
    Shamu is a stage name that we use for any of the adult (male or female) killer whales in our shows.
  10. What is the origin of the name "Shamu"?
    Many stories exist about the origin of Shamu's name. One revolves around the first collected killer whale that was named Namu after a British Columbian town. When SeaWorld welcomed its first killer whale, it was named Shamu, for "She-Namu".
  11. Why are they called killer whales?
    A healthy adult killer whale is an apex (top) predator in the ocean; it can prey on anything that lives in the sea, but has no predators of its own. Some killer whales are even known to prey on other species of whales. At one time, people called them "whale killers," which was eventually modified into killer whales.
  12. Who would win in a fight - a killer whale or great white shark?
    An encounter between a great white shark (Carcharodon carcharias) and killer whales (Orcinus orca) was recently documented off of Southeast Farallon Island near San Francisco, California. Two killer whales were in the area feeding on a California sea lion. Perhaps the smell of fresh sea lion blood drew the shark to the area, but when one of the killer whales sighted the great white, it immediately charged the shark. The killer whale pulled the 3-4 m (10-13 ft.) shark to the surface in its mouth and both killer whales consumed portions of the great white including its enormous liver. This is certainly no indication of what may happen every time killer whales face great whites, but it does demonstrate the variety in a killer whale’s diet.
  13. How much does a killer whale eat?
    Each adult killer whale at SeaWorld receives 140 to 240 pounds of food per day. We feed our killer whales a balanced, high-quality diet, including several different species of fish. Among the types most often fed are herring, capelin, salmon, mackerel, and occasionally others. Fish is always kept refrigerator and well-iced to help maintain the highest husbandry standards.

    New batches of fish are tested via calorimeter to determine exact levels of calories, fat, ash, protein, and moisture. This information aids our veterinary staff and animal trainers in developing an appropriate diet for each animal. Other important information includes the animals' weights, which are obtained weekly via a voluntary "scale" behavior (the whales are trained to slide-up onto a weight scale and remain motionless while their exact weight is read), behavioral clues (how are the animal's eating habits and overall energy level?), demographics (age, reproductive status of the animal), and any special nutritional requirements that a particular animal may have.

    Each animal is fed at random amounts at random intervals throughout the day. To provide a high level of mental and physical stimulation, it is important to vary feeding times and amounts for mental stimulation.

Seals, Sea Lions, & Walruses

  1. How is a sea lion different from a seal?
    Seals, sea lions and walruses all belong in the Pinniped order of marine mammals . Although many people think that a sea lion is a seal - there are many differences between seals and sea lions. Sea lions and fur seals are in the Otariiadae family while true seals are in the family Phocidae. One difference between sea lions and seals is that a sea lion has an external ear-flap on each side of its head - just like you do. A true seal, such as a harbor seal, lacks these ear-flaps and, instead, has a tiny hole on each side of its head that leads to the inner ear. Sea lions have long, winglike foreflippers that are clawless and hairless. The foreflippers of seals are short, covered with fur, and have clawlike nails. A sea lion can also rotate its hind flippers underneath its body and walk on land using all four flippers. The hind flippers of a seal remain extended behind its body and it inches forward on land like a caterpillar. In the water, sea lions swim by moving their front flippers up-and-down. Seals move their hind flippers from side-to-side like a fish in order to swim. To learn more about pinnipeds, view the California Sea Lion, Harbor Seal, and Walruses infobooks.
  2. What does the Navy do with its sea lions?
    The Navy has an excellent website on its Marine Mammal Program. Visit http://spawar.navy.mil/sandiego/technology/mammals/ for more information.

Penguins

  1. What kind of penguins do you have at SeaWorld?
    SeaWorld San Diego has emperor, king, Adélie, Gentoo, macaroni, Magellanic, and Humboldt penguins. SeaWorld Orlando has king, Adélie, Gentoo, rockhopper, and Magellanic penguins. SeaWorld San Antonio has king, Gentoo, chinstrap, rockhopper, and Magellanic penguins.
  2. Have you had successful breeding with the penguins?
    Yes, we have been extremely successful with breeding all species of penguins that we have at SeaWorld.

Sea Turtles

  1. How long does a sea turtle live?
    Scientists are still researching sea turtle longevity. Once sea turtles reach sexual maturity, they may have an estimated reproductive life of about 30 years. Given that some species reach maturity at 50 years, an 80-year lifespan is feasible.

Fishes

  1. Why aren't clownfish stung by anemones?
    Indo- Pacific reef anemones are known for their symbiotic (both benefit) relationship with clownfish. An anemone's stinging tentacles provide refuge for these fishes and their eggs. Scientists believe that the clownfish may be coated with a mucous that protects it from the anemones venom. In return, clownfish may protect the anemone from predators such as butterflyfish. Clownfish may even remove parasites and algae from their host anemones.

    Clownfish are found in the warm-waters of the tropical Pacific Ocean, the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean, and Great Barrier Reef of Australia. There are 28 species of true clownfish and only 10 species of anemones that the clownfish are symbiotic with.
  2. Are moray eels dangerous?
    A moray eel may look dangerous because it constantly opens and closes its mouth revealing needle-sharp teeth. This helps the eel breathe by moving oxygenated water over the eel's gills. Moray eels are generally not aggressive to people. They will only bite if they feel threatened or cornered. Moray eels and lobsters often hide in the same kind of rocky habitat. Divers hunting for lobsters are sometimes bitten by morays when they blindly reach into a rocky crevice hiding a moray.

Sharks

  1. How long do sharks live?
    No one really knows for sure. At SeaWorld we have had some of our sharks for almost 20 years, and they are probably able to live longer than this.
  2. How many teeth does a shark have?
    Some kinds of sharks have as many as 30,000 teeth throughout their life, but not all at once. Sharks have several rows of teeth. When a shark looses a tooth, it is replaced by a tooth in the row behind it. See the Sharks & Rays infobook at for more information on sharks.
  3. How do you feed sharks?
    The aquarists who care for these animals feed the sharks fish and squid. They use long tongs to avoid being accidentally bitten by the sharks.
  4. Do sharks sleep?
    It is not believed that sharks "sleep", but rather some species will become semi-conscious. Sharks have low blood pressure. The walls of the pericardium are rigid, creating suction within the pericardium to maintain the flow of blood. Even if a shark is resting on the ocean floor, they must occasionally swing their tails to create muscle contractions needed to circulate their blood.
  5. Which shark is the most dangerous?
    Only 32 species (out of about 400 species) of sharks have been identified in attacks on humans. To learn more about shark attacks visit the International Shark Attack File at http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/isaf/isaf.htm.

Rays

  1. How can you avoid being stung by a stingray?
    Stingrays are not aggressive animals and will only sting if they feel threatened, as when someone accidentally steps on them. When wading in the ocean, don't take steps, and instead, shuffle your feet through the sand. The rays will sense your motion and swim away, even if you brush against them.

Sea Stars

  1. How do sea stars stick to a rock?
    Sea stars have hundreds of tiny tube feet that they use to cling to rocks and other surfaces. Each tube foot independently draws water in and out - like drawing a liquid in and out of an eyedropper. If the sea star draws water in, it creates suction so the sea star can hold onto a surface. If the sea star lets water out, then the suction releases.
  2. How do you feed the sea stars?
    The bat stars at SeaWorld eat marine algae (or seaweed) so kelp and other marine algae is placed in the large tide pool for them to feed on. Other sea stars that are carnivores are given cut up fish and squid to eat. A sea star has a translucent (clear) sac-like stomach that it can move out of its mouth, surround its food, digest the food, and then pull back inside of its body.

Crabs

  1. How do crabs breathe both underwater and out of the water?
    Most crabs have gills that they use for respiration (breathing). Many species have specialized gill chambers that help keep the gills moist. Land crabs must still live near a water source to keep their gills moist.