Thursday, June 26, 2008

The DRC Family

Check out the DRC family pod on YouTube!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Why We Do Research

Talon correctly chooses the board with fewer dots in our "Less" research study.

We’re frequently asked why we do research. What’s the point? There are lots of different reasons. Some of our research is observational. By studying our resident pod, we learn things about their general behavior, their physiology, their development. Sharing this knowledge with other scientists is helpful. For example, we’re often lucky enough to be present when a new calf is born. We videotape and photograph that baby from birth, and track its progress with additional video and pictures for the first few months of its life.

When born, the calves have fetal bands that look like stripes of lighter gray skin around their bodies. The fetal bands are formed when the baby is still scrunched up in its mom’s uterus. Over time, those fetal bands fade – and we keep track of that timing. If a researcher in the wild spots a dolphin calf, he can refer to the data we’ve collected and, possibly, estimate the age of the baby according to the color of the fetal bands.

Dolphins in the open oceans have been observed behaving in ways that appeared to indicate that they understood something about numbers and quantity. However, until we did our study on Understanding of the Concept of Numerically “Less”, nobody could say for sure if dolphins could actually grasp numbers concepts. Now we know that they can!

Each research study contributes to the global understanding of these amazing animals, which brings us to another important reason for asking, and answering, research questions. We believe that people care more about animals when they perceive them to be intelligent. The more the people of the world care about dolphins and other marine life, the more likely they are to protect them and the ocean environment.

That alone is reason enough!
For more information about Dolphin Research Center's current and past research, visit our website at

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

DRC Helps Rescue Baby Manatee!

DRC Medical Director Pat Clough assesses the baby manatee on scene after the rescue.

This little girl is believed to be only a few weeks old.

Personnel from Dolphin Research Center’s (DRC) Manatee Rescue Team joined with staff from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Miami Seaquarium (MSQ) to rescue a baby female manatee on Sunday, June 15th. Residents in the bayside area of mile marker 101 in Key Largo had observed the small animal on its own for several days and reported it to the FWC. After locating the calf in a canal, rescuers stretched a net from land and divers picked up the animal and carried it on shore.

DRC’s Medical Director Pat Clough performed an initial assessment of the calf. It was weighed on scene and determined to be only 65 pounds and in need of nutrition and fluids. After the assessment, the manatee was transported to Miami Seaquarium for long term care. “We don’t know how long the baby has been on her own, or what happened to the mother, but she was emaciated and dehydrated,” stated Clough. “Hopefully, with regular nutrition and the excellent around-the-clock care she’ll receive at Miami Seaquarium, she’ll gain weight and be fine.”
The calf underwent additional tests and assessment by Seaquarium veterinarians. They report that she adapted smoothly to being fed by bottle. Seaquarium staff will continue to monitor her condition and provide constant care.
To learn more about manatees, visit the Marine Education section of our website or click here to read facts about manatees.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Iguana Action and the Dolphins

In addition to our dolphin and sea lion family, a variety of other animals consider DRC home. Cats, tropical birds, peafowl, and chickens roam the grounds, as do a number of iguanas. It’s not uncommon to see the reptiles crawling around on rocks, in mangrove bushes, or walking down the boardwalks – even in the sea lion habitat. Sometimes, they realize that the shortest distance between where they are and where they want to go is across one of the dolphin lagoons. The iguanas plunge in and start swimming, trying to reach the other side before the dolphins notice.

As if. Recently, we spotted Ras and Jax circling around an iguana while it swam. This might have been the first time Jax ever saw one of these strange-looking creatures, so his curiosity is understandable.

Trainer Jenn asked Santini to jump over one of the iguanas. Tina’s accustomed to jumping over her sisters, but this was a first. Up to the challenge, she executed a super long dive while the iguana continued to swim.

Pandora’s known for treating other animals like toys – such as baby nurse sharks. She’ll tuck them under her flippers or surf around with them on her stomach. When it comes to iguanas, however, she decided not to retrieve one as a playmate. Instead, like Aunt Santini, Pandora jumped over the lagoon visitor.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Plastic and the Marine Environment

Plastic is extremely damaging to the marine environment because it is not biodegradable. Plastic causes problems for marine animals that get entangled. Plastic particles, although they cannot be seen by the naked eye, become absorbed by plankton, and enter into the base of the marine food chain. When larger animals, such as dolphins, eat smaller animals such as fish, they accumulate larger amounts of plastics in their bodies. This can cause serious health problems and even death.

Facts about Plastic Bags:
· The common plastic bag is made of polyethylene
· Polyethylene bags take 1000 years to break down but stay in the environment forever
· 4 to 5 TRILLION plastics bags are manufactured each year
· Americans use over 380 billion plastics bags a year, but recycle only 1%
· Production of 100 million plastic bags uses 12 million barrels of oil
· 100,000 marine mammals die yearly by eating plastic bags that are mistaken as food
· Approximately 1 billion animals die every year from ingesting plastic bags

What can we do?
· Stop using plastic bags. They are not necessary!
· Re-usable bags are available at most grocery stores or online
· Many supermarkets now sell re-usable bags for very low costs
· If you use plastic bags- RECYCLE them at the grocery store
· Support campaigns to minimize the use of plastic bags

This tidbit was brought to you by the DRC Conservation Committee.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Best Buddies - Kibby and Delphi

Whether playing with toys or being his charming self, Delphi always gets our attention.

Kibby loves to practice behaviors in between sessions.

Practice makes perfect – or so Kibby might have thought. Recently in between sessions, Kibby practiced his vertical spin behavior for several minutes. Visitors and staff couldn’t help laughing to see Kib spinning around in the middle of his lagoon.

A few minutes later, Delphi demonstrated more of his cute charm. While Research intern Elise stood on the boardwalk doing observations, Delphi did his best to get her attention. He swam up and stared at her with a big, wide-open dolphin grin, then followed it up with his patented “giggle” sound. To top it all off, Delphi turned onto his back and gave Elise, and himself, a round of “applause”. Too cute!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

FAQ: How Long Do Dolphins Live?

Theresa moved to DRC in 1968,
after spending several years in the U.S. Navy.
She's a charming, mature lady dolphin
who is the mother of Santini and
the grandmom of Tanner & Ras.

We’re frequently asked, “How long do dolphins live?” Well, obviously, they can live to great ages – like Theresa who is in her early 50s, or Delphi and Molly who are believed to be in their early 40s.

Even knowing this about these particular dolphins, we like to present accurate data to answer this important question.

Dolphin Research Center is an accredited member of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums. A couple of years ago, the Alliance conducted a study with its North American members and their resident dolphins. From that project, we now know some specifics.

Current scientific data show that bottlenose dolphins in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities live longer than their counterparts in the wild.

On average, a one-year old bottlenose dolphin in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities is expected to live for more than 25 years

The median life expectancy of a one-year-old bottlenose dolphin in Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums member facilities is 24.3 years.

For more information about the Alliance, visit our website and click on the Alliance logo on the homepage!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Jax Joins the Front Lagoon!

Jax loves jumping and diving in the lagoons.
Now healed, his dorsal fin shows the results of the
possible shark attack that injured him when
he was about 6-8 months old in the St. John's River.

DRC’s newest family member, Jax, has joined Santini, Ras, Theresa, Tursi and Gypsi in the front lagoon. Jax is a juvenile male who was rescued over a year ago from the St. John’s River in Jacksonville, FL. He was severely injured – probably by a shark attack or run-in with a boat – and found swimming all by himself for quite some time. After the federal government decided he needed to be rescued, he spent several months at Gulf World Marine Park in Panama City, FL, before joining the DRC family in January.

We wanted to make his transition smooth, happy, and as stress-free as possible. Jax lived in our medical pool for a few weeks so he could get to know us and so his body could gradually make the transition from pool water to Gulf of Mexico water. He then moved into one of the lagoons where he could check out dolphin pod members in neighboring pools.

We thought that Tursi, who is definitely an ├╝ber-mom, might be just the adult, maternal role model that Jax needed. Tursi’s daughter, Gypsi, now over a year old, is close enough in age to Jax to be a good playmate. So, first we put these three together in a separate lagoon. It didn’t take long for them to become acquainted and begin swimming around. In a matter of days, Tursi grew comfortable enough to let Gypsi and Jax play – under her supervision, of course.

After a few weeks, we decided to introduce Jax to more members of his DRC dolphin pod. At his age, estimated to be around two years, he would still be living with his mother and a maternity pod out in the open oceans. It made sense to us to put him with a similar social group. For a few days, the “new kid on the block” hung out by the fence while everybody observed each other. Jax’s trainers played with him and gradually coaxed him over to play at various docks with other dolphins. It didn’t take long for him to get the “lay of the lagoon”. Now he ventures out to join the other youngsters, Gypsi and Ras, for free spirited play. He continues to participate in sessions with his trainers and shows definite interest in all the other activity that takes place in the front lagoon.

It’s obvious that mature ladies and kids alike have definitely accepted Jax as a member of the DRC family!