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Review: Listening to Dolphins

Few among us will ever dive with dolphins -- but viewing the latest IMAX film Dolphins may be the next best thing. MacGillivray Freeman Films, the makers of Everest and The Living Sea, deliver another compelling film with an equal measure of exotic beauty and interesting science. Shot largely under the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, Dolphins gives us a rare, intimate look at these intelligent creatures and the research being done to better understand them. In the film we meet Kathleen Dudzinski, a marine biologist currently working on her Ph.D, along with her two colleagues, Dr. Alejandro Acevedo and mentor Dr. Bernd Wursig. Together they use sophisticated listening and recording devices to eavesdrop on wild dolphin pods. The researchers are attempting to decode the noises dolphins use to communicate, a complex mix of whistles, chirps, and clicking sounds that continually pass between the animals as they swim. While scientists have long observed dolphins in captivity, less is known about these mammals in their natural habitats. Dudzinski, following in the footsteps of animal behaviorists like Jane Goodall and Dianne Fosse, hopes to remedy that. Through her hours of underwater observations, Dudzinski has discovered that dolphins not only communicate through sound, but body language as well, using posture, gestures, and touch to convey meaning to other pod members. That communication isn‘t limited to their own species either, as demonstrated through the touching, 15-year relationship between a wild male dolphin named JoJo and his friend, naturalist Dean Bernal. My 5-year-old son Evan comments on how amazing it is that dolphins eyes move independently of one another (scientists believe that when a dolphin sleeps, only half of its brain rests), enabling it to close one eye to sleep while the other eye keeps watch for predators. “I can ‘t do that,” he aptly demonstrates. He ‘s also impressed by the fact that dolphins can jump higher than a basketball goal. Dolphins typically leap while swimming because becoming airborne enables them to make better time (due to less resistance). While in the air, they also search the sea for feeding gulls, a sign that dinnertime is not far off! Much of the factual information will be over the heads of kids under 8. But between the beautiful scenery and the engaging subject, there ‘s something here for everyone. Dolphins is the perfect holiday getaway.

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