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The secret life of dolphins: What 50 years of research is uncovering in Sarasota Bay

An exclusive look into the world's longest-running dolphin research program

SARASOTA COUNTY – The Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program is the longest-running study of bottlenose dolphins in the world. Launching in 1970, the research is invaluable in protecting this unique creature.

ABC Action News received federal approval to go on the water with the team. The research shows us that dolphins call Sarasota Bay home, living in the area and raising calves for generations upon generations.

"This really is their home across generations, across decades, we still have individuals that we've been seeing that I first identified back in the 1970s," Dr. Randall Wells, Director of the Chicago Zoological Society's Sarasota Dolphin Research Program, said. "(We know) who they're related to, how old they are, what sex they are, who they spend their time with, or who they should be spending your time with, who's had a calf, what status, what the status of that calf might be, and what kind of activity they're engaged in."

Dr. Wells co-founded the program after starting as an assistant to Dr. Blair Irvine.

There are 170 resident bottlenose dolphins in Sarasota Bay. Each has a unique story of survival.