Florida Dolphin education and conservation since 1990
Check out the Dolphin Experience Ecosystem Explorer
Dolphin Connection owners Doug and Cheryl Messinger are highly respected leaders in the training, care, conservation and breeding of marine mammals. Together, they have more than 50 years experience in the marine mammal field.
Each member of the Dolphin Connection staff is highly trained, with annual involvement in professional conferences, wildlife conservation projects and staff exchange programs with zoological institutions around the country. This comprehensive experience translates into the best possible care for our animals.
Dolphin Connection staff and animals have worked with a variety of world-renowned researchers to make groundbreaking discoveries about bottlenose dolphins.
Our most important discoveries include:
Defining the natural behavior of breeding dolphins — Through a behavioral study we documented the cooperative raising and nursing of all calves in the group by any available female. This was a first for bottlenose dolphins. We also learned through this study that two male dolphins will bond with one another to pair up for a life-long union.
Gaining a better understanding of dolphin reproduction — We participated in a study that determined that geographic location and length of light, or photoperiods, affect a dolphin’s breeding cycles. We also assisted in developing the first reversible birth control method for male dolphins to help prevent inbreeding.
Documenting and identifying newborn dolphin calf whistles — The creation of signature whistles, which are unique to each individual dolphin, was studied in our lagoon through the use of underwater microphones called hydrophones. It is now understood that male calves develop a whistle similar to their mother, while female calves develop a unique whistle.
Gaining a better understanding of how pollution can affect dolphins — Through the collection of voluntary milk samples, it was discovered that environmental contaminants, such as heavy metals, are passed from the mother’s body through the milk to the newborn calf.
Dolphin Connection values the knowledge and resources of our numerous colleagues around the world, and understands that collective knowledge translates into the best possible care for our dolphins.
Dolphin Connection is a founding member of the Bottlenose Dolphin Breeding Consortium, bringing together groups of like-minded institutions to collectively manage a sustainable and genetically-sound population of bottlenose dolphins. Formed in 1999, this pioneering venture has produced more than 20 successful bottlenose dolphin calves to date.
Our members include:
- Chicago Zoological Society
- Disney’s EPCOT Living Seas
- Indianapolis Zoological Society
- Minnesota Zoological Garden
- National Aquarium in Baltimore
- Texas State Aquarium
Dolphin Connection is proud to be professionally accredited by the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums since 2003. The Alliance administers a stringent accreditation process for its members, with re-accreditations taking place every five years.
Accredited members must uphold Alliance Standards and Guidelines to optimize the health and well-being of marine mammals under their care and to maximize both the educational and scientific value of their operation as a whole.
Collaboration, both nationally and internationally, is a fundamental tenet of Dolphin Connection operations. Our staff members are actively involved in a number of professional organizations, including:
- Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums
- American Zoo and Aquarium Association
- International Marine Animal Trainer’s Association
- Society for Marine Mammalogy
- Animal Behavior Management Alliance
- International Association of Aquatic Animal Medicine
- European Association of Aquatic Mammals
- National Marine Educators Association